Thursday, 15 January 2009

Crazy is good

Crazy is a word that is supposed to be bad. This is because crazy means non-conformity, and non-conformity is bad. Society functions best when people do what they are supposed to and play inside the box. But non-conforming people do good things as well. Explorers, artists, designers, scientists and philosophers have changed the way we think about life and see the world by breaking the mould and doing things that are out of the ordinary.

Don't worry. This isn't going to be a sycophantic post trying to draw out a comparison with Van Gogh or James Cook or Phil Spector or Galileo, but there is a point of principle here.

I remember being called crazy. Once I was on a training run with a friend over an alpine pass in New Zealand. The weather was reasonably good and we were wearing light running gear with thermals underneath. We hit a snowstorm near the top and had to double-time it through the pass as temperatures started dropping fast. Tired, we stopped for a break and some temporary shelter at a mountain hut, shooing high-country sheep out from under the porch. Inside were two mountain men dressed in full alpine climbing gear, sipping hot tea. They stared at our running kit.

"What the hell are you boys doing?"

"Training run. For rowing."

They looked at each other. "You're crazy"

(At this point I should add that this run was nothing compared to the Ben Nevis efforts a few months ago. While the pass was cold, there was no horizontal rain, and we could see. If this was crazy, Ben Nevis was pure lunacy.)

Anyway I digress. We got to the bottom and felt good, both because of a good day's training, and yes, because we had been called crazy. Going out of the ordinary comfort zone feels good, and doing things that others wouldn't feels good. If nothing else, it reminds you that you're alive.

I also remember a crazy experience in Bolivia. I mountainbiked down a road that is listed as the world's most dangerous road by the UN. It's not really a road - it's a broken wet track on a sheer cliff that drops 11,000 feet into the jungle. "Irresponsible and crazy" was the judgment of some offended tourists my group met afterwards. Crazy? It was freaking awesome.

I think most of us were crazy from time-to-time when we were younger. It's expected, and healthy, for boundaries to be tested and limits to be pushed. It lets you know what you are capable of (and sometimes, what you're not). For most of us, age and day jobs and relationships and responsibility have knocked crazy into the memory banks and photo albums. Getting drunk on Friday night isn't crazy, nor is sweating it out at the gym on Saturday to make up for it. So if crazy is incompatible with regular life, is it bad after all?

At the promotional freeze a few weeks back, a group of us were jogging away from Trafalgar Square. Stopping at the trafic lights, a curious bystander asked what we were doing. "Raising money for charity by playing cricket on Everest."

"What? Everest? As in Mount Everest?" Eyebrows raised, a slightly incredulous look.


"Wow. You guys are crazy."


Crazy is good.


Curry said...

You should blog more!

tooveseverest said...

superb. very well written