Archives For Risk

A Dire Norwegian Crime

February 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

pulpitrockActually, the title may be slightly misleading, since we don’t know the nationality of the people who risked their child’s life over a 2,000 foot cliff . . . but the scene of their crime was one of Norway’s amazing natural wonders.

Preikestolen, is known in English as Pulpit Rock. It is a rare geological feature, a pillar of rock thrusting 1,982 feet from the ground, with three sides a sheer drop to the rocks. It stands majestic, adjacent to a picturesque fjord.

It’s lovely to behold. But only a fool would want to walk out on it, right?

I mean, just look at it. Doesn’t anyone else notice the huge fissure that splits the pulpit right in half? As I look at it, I can just imagine it splitting down the middle with the exposed side crashing down like an enormously oversized and exponentially elongated domino . . . but a domino made out of granite exposed for eons to the frigid Nordic winters so when it strikes the earth it will shatter into a million and a half fragments like a sheet of ice. Well, that’s what I see when I look at the pictures.

What I don’t see is a tourist site where I would like to prance out and pose for a photo beside the edge, or pretend to have accidentally fallen off the side.

Nope, not by a long shot.

As one visitor said, “It’s a straight drop. You don’t want to go too close because it’s pretty scary. You’d be pretty much dead if you fall down there.”

Yes, “pretty much.’

Nevertheless, scores of thousands of people every year prove how few cautionary genes they and I share by doing just that. Of course, I do share with C.S. Lewis the conviction that courage is utterly necessary for living a Christian life in an anti-Christian world. Even Screwtape understands that!

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. (The Screwtape Letters).

But this sort of courage does not necessarily translate into foolhardy risking of one’s fragile body.

Back to Scandinavia

Apparently, Preikestolen is quite a popular spot.

I offer links below to a several videos of crazy stunts people have pulled on the small bluff. Some people apparently also like to go there for picnics. That reminded me of a column I posted about “Rational Fears” related to another frightening dining experience.

Tragically, in 2013 a tourist fell from the precipice while shooting photos. But here is the amazing part of that story: “Local sheriff Odd-Bjørn Næss said it was the first time anyone had accidentally fallen over the edge of Preikestolen.”

Up until I read the sheriff’s statement I had always taken pride in my 50% Norse lineage. One reason was because I considered my ancestors sturdy and honest folk. Yes, I see the sheriff’s “accidentally” disclaimer, and I suspect they do experience a number of suicides . . . but I believe that with all of the foolish behavior transpiring at Preikestolen there must be more fatal accidents . . .

The Crime With Which We Began

Accidents, of course, are not crimes. But this, most certainly is. Some adults, presumably the baby’s parents, put their small child at terrible risk by posing her or him beside the edge of the cliff simply to take some shocking photographs.

Yes, you read that right.

They set their little child, who was crawling at the time, on the brink of a 2,000 foot drop!

cliffchildIf you’re familiar with precious little ones, you know that babies do not always crawl in a straight line. Nor do they always continue moving in the direction you plan for them. Not only that, but they are prone to taking occasional tumbles–perhaps even rolling over onto their side or back. And on this rugged pillar top, mind you, the baby was on an extremely uneven, and possibly slippery, surface.

Simply put, these parents are criminals. In every civilized country I’m aware of, “child endangerment” is a crime. You can read the story about their foolhardy action here, and see the frightening photo from which this small image is cropped. (You can see the original picture and the the accompanying article here.)

Unfortunately, they pixilated the adults’ faces, so they can’t be recognized. Seems to me that they should have allowed them to be identified . . . if not for trial, for public shaming so they would be forced to reflect on the responsibilities one assumes as a parent.

Epilogue

trolltonguePreikestolen is not the only deadly sightseeing destination in Norway. Another goes by the more foreboding name of Trolltunga, Troll’s Tongue. It too has claimed at least one life, and from the photo of the small spit of rock, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to walk out on it.

 

As promised:

A Base Jumper Who Nearly Dies

Free Hanging Off of the Cliff

Insane Italians Slack Lining

There are more examples of the craziness evoked by the image of Preikestolen, but these are representative. I thank God I don’t feel the slightest envy as I watch people base jumping, free hanging, or slack lining.

I’m content to get my adrenaline rushes from reading a great book.

Trusting Serpents

February 11, 2014 — 4 Comments

snake massageI try very hard not to be overly critical of foreign practices that initially strike me as rather odd. Instead, I attempt to understand what these activities mean in the culture where they are practiced.

Yet, for the life of me (as my mother would say), I can’t fathom why Indonesians want to have snakes give them “massages.” And, even though only a fraction of their people submit to this peculiar activity, there are apparently enough candidates for spas to offer the serpentine service.

I imagine that the snakes do indeed rub, flex and squeeze their clients, since pythons are “constrictors,” and it’s in their nature to want to circle—suffocate—crush—and devour their prey.

Ironically, this fact, compliments of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, follows in the wake of a recent news report about another man who thought he would be fine getting a shoulder massage from an apparently “undomesticated” python.

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — A python strangled a security guard near a luxury hotel on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on Friday, and then escaped into nearby bushes following the deadly attack, police and a hotel employee who witnessed the incident said. The incident happened around 3 a.m. as the 15-foot-long python was slithering across a road near the Bali Hyatt hotel . . .

The victim, Ambar Arianto Mulyo, was a 59-year-old security guard at a nearby restaurant. He had offered to help capture the snake, which had apparently been spotted several times before near the hotel . . . Mulyo managed to secure the snake’s head and tail and put it on his shoulders, but the python wrapped itself around his body and strangled him . . .

People watching the incident were unable or unwilling to help and called the police, who came but failed to save the man. The python escaped into nearby bushes, and police were still searching for it.

The Associated Press story ends with the lame attempt to calm those who are inclined to suffer from ophidiophobia. “Deadly attacks on adult humans by pythons are rare, but have been documented before.”

Pardon me, but that’s not quite sufficient reassurance for even those of us without a snake phobia. I remember hearing from my wife about my young daughter’s class being introduced to a sizeable serpent some years ago during a fieldtrip. As everyone watched the handler manipulating its head and frontal coils, it was surreptitiously beginning to caress my little girl with its tail!*

If the Indonesian practice of python-massage crosses the Pacific, you won’t find me visiting the spa for a back rub. I understand they probably only employ well-fed, six-foot-long “baby” pythons, but I still choose to pass.

C.S. Lewis has a wonderful comment about trust. He says the true test of how deeply we believe something is the magnitude of the risk we are willing to take related to our trust in it.

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? . . . Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. (A Grief Observed).

I don’t care how many herpetologists or masseuses assure that pythons can safely massage my bared body . . . I’m learning from the example of that poor Balinese guard who fell for the python’s trick, thinking that he held the upper hand.

_____

* Yes, snakes actually do have tails. It’s only one of their slithering secrets.