June 15

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Our Wild Nature

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Moderation?” He leaped on the desk, like an evangelist. “It’s mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise. It’s the devil’s reasonable deception. It’s the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence sitters of the world afraid to take a stand to live or die. Moderation is lukewarm tea, the devil’s own brew!”

Socrates, Way of the Peaceful Warrior

These questions assail me more and more:

Why in this modern age of hi-tech is this quite raw and savage art of movement called parkour capturing the public imagination, reaching across nations, creeds, fields of study and interest, breaking boundaries of all kinds, one of the most popular video types ever watched on YouTube?

Why in this age of virtual reality is this stripped-down and uncomplicated discipline one of the fastest growing physical activities?

Perhaps it’s because in this increasingly sterile, normalising and standardised society parkour is something that reminds us of our true nature? That at heart we are wild and free, made of bone and sinew and pulsating muscle, hunters and survivors all. That movement is our origin.

Perhaps it’s because in this increasingly bland common denominator world it’s something that restores our faith in the power of the individual, the potential of each unique human soul?

Perhaps it’s because in this world of regulation, stratification and legislation it is something that questions the validity of those laws, something that tests the boundaries and asks ‘why can’t I move like this? Why can’t I explore this space – a space which is my birthright as much as yours – as my nature demands? Why can’t I push my limits? Who are you to tell me no?’

 

Parkour is a fine example of how individuals can become highly skilled in overcoming obstacles, engaging with their environment and managing risks in a way that produces numerous benefits in the form of physical health, skill and judgment.

 

– David Ball, Professor of Risk Management and Director of the Centre for Decision Analysis & Risk Management at Middlesex University

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No ball games, no cycling, no running, no loitering, no parkour, no breathing… No parkour? Are we banning movement now? Do we really want to go down that road? Do we really want to prevent ourselves from living according to our own nature in the places we live? Does no one in the various decision-making processes understand the enormous dangers, inequities and negative consequences of allowing the lowest common denominator to rule all? Not only is that ineffective, it’s immoral. Moreover, it’s downright stupid.

Parkour can’t be contained, its very essence rages against conformity and mediocrity. It demands more of us, it knows we are capable of extraordinary feats. It prods and pokes and challenges us. It dares us. It questions us.

And yes, this brings risk; this brings us out of our comfort zone and hurls us into that uncomfortable zone that is where all human progress has been made – the edge, the very edge between success and failure. Good! It should! We should be seeking that out more often, we should be facing that challenge regularly. Not steering our children clear of it in some inane hope that it will keep them safe – it won’t; it will in fact only increase the risk of them becoming incompetent, unfit, unhealthy, weak, unable to manage risk.

This seeking for security is inviting insecurity.

 

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Perhaps it’s because parkour reflects that part of ourselves that screams to be alive and free, to do the amazing things we are born capable of doing. Perhaps it’s because parkour is really just an expression of our untamed nature, that has existed and kept us alive for millennia, long before an obsession with health and safety minutiae, long before climbing trees was considered dangerous and unnatural, long before fear was allowed to govern how we think and feel and live.

Perhaps it’s because parkour is power in a world where we find ourselves increasingly powerless?

Shirley - Abbey Road

It’s quite simple, I think. We are born to move this way. We are born with a curiosity and a desire to explore, to discover the world around us, to find our own way and test our limits every day. That’s how those limits get pushed back.

We shouldn’t be encroaching on people’s ability or freedom to do that. We shouldn’t be burying our children in cotton wool and pretending they are somehow safer in a world which in reality demands their wits, their courage, their every ounce of inner strength to not only survive but to thrive and achieve great things.

On the contrary, we should be moving in this way every day, honing those attributes, sharpening them in the field of adversity through exposing them to challenge, risk and the edge of success. That resourcefulness is and has always been our greatest strength. That adaptive ability is our true nature. That will keep us safe far more effectively than any rule, padding or street sign. Let that be our guide and our protector.

This power is within us all. Our choice is simple:

Leave it, let it sleep, lie dormant, unprovoked, and dwell in mediocrity for your brief span of years.

Or encourage it, call on it, let it take flight, and soar into the rarefied heights that we as a race are capable of discovering.

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