Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Extreme Sports and Deeper Living

An article I read the other day may force me to revise a little bit of what I said in an earlier post.

Basically, the article deals with the psychology of those who participate in "extreme sports" or high risk athletic events. The study is very narrow in its definition of these events, concentrating on those activities that require a high degree of skill. The aspect that interests me is that this showed several "character developing" effects. For instance, two specific effects outlined by the study were that participation in these activities developed the athlete's courage and their sense of humility. However, I'm sure other similar effects could be seen by different participants. The general idea seems to be that participating in high risk, attention and skill intensive activities can contribute to developing positive character traits because the experience itself alters your view of life in some way (namely, by helping you realize the fragility of it through your experience of facing fear). That would suggest that such an activity might be more "deep" than I may have given it credit for in my earlier post.

However, I will still maintain that thrill seeking is not "real living." This study differs from other psychological studies into the effects of extreme sports in that it defines them as things that involve a high degree of skill. In other words, you have to be a very highly trained athlete to participate. This is not a tourist bungee jumping or sky diving. Those types of activities, when studied, seem to have similar effects to a drug high- a purely chemical "rush" that leaves the person momentarily elated, but certainly not better off in terms of things that really matter.

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