Gone is the era of quiet contemplation, of admiring a sunset in the Himalayas, dawn rising in the desert, the thundering waters of a mighty cascade. The contemplative Romantic poet has yielded to the adrenaline junkie. You don't meditate before beauty nowadays, you take it by the scruff of the neck and shake it.
Extreme sports are mainly for the young but are rarely sanctioned by schools, involving considerable risk of physical harm to the participant. These sports include such lunacy as surfing in storm conditions, hang gliding from active volcanoes or launching yourself off a mountain inside a sixty foot plastic sphere. All this appears to have developed since the first bungee jump in 1979 from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Like any fetish or addiction the participant has to venture ever greater risk in order to maintain that essential 'hit'.
Whereas I've always loved looking at great deserts, people now want to hurtle over the perfect dunes in a four wheel drive Jeep. Rather than gasp at the beauty of Mount Everest, the young daredevil feels the need to snowboard down it. It's very passé to watch bewitched as the evening mist rises above the rainforest. Today's response is to strip off and try to survive stark naked in it for several weeks. The latest super wheeze is to try to take a selfie in front of a speeding train. What is it with young people?
Consider also the modern scourge of binge drinking, of racing at night on public roads and running in front of HGV's on motorways. This is a generation that engages with the world with a kind of desperation, they're almost hurling themselves at life in a bid to understand it by mating with it in their own inarticulate way.
These youngsters are not Angry Young Men in the sense of the 1950's term, because they don't appear to be aware of any dilemma. They are 'having a laugh'.
Ironically they isolate themselves with their iPads, mobile phones and X Boxes, stuck inside their hi-tech bedrooms with flickering screens and electronic trills. When they do mix socially it's in huge noisy groups. They seem unable to function alone and unable to contemplate or reflect.
So what about extreme sports? Why the addiction to adrenaline, the rushing wind, the yawning abyss, the mighty spume of the cascade? My belief is that all this is to compensate for the lack of activity within. The noise from without drowns the silence inside the inactive mind, the mind devoid of abstracts. But this mentality will pass just as the Angry Young Men did. Generations of people are like mists swirling in the wind, long outlived by the deserts and the mountains and the rainforests which they don't deserve.
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