This is a sort of mini-post because I am a sleepy mermaid this evening. However, I just had to share a sense of amazement and wonder I am currently experiencing (semi-seriously) as I ponder human behaviour. Let me explain, the television is on in our living room as a sort of background noise. Generally I’m ignoring it as I pootle round sorting out general stuff – but my attention was caught by a rather remarkable programme: Extreme Fishing. I kid you not – a guy (who describes himself as an “extreme angler”) on a boat, wrestling with fish on a line, occasionally commenting (in a very ‘manly’ way) things like “this isn’t like any fishing I’ve ever experienced, and I’m wondering whether I can cope.” For an hour.
Now, you may have gathered that this isn’t my kind of show (very entertaining though it may be) but I was rather tickled by the whole concept. Obviously I’m aware of Extreme Sports, and heard of slightly tongue-in-cheek activities such as Extreme Ironing and Extreme Cello Playing (usually as a fundraising stunt). But this was serious. The whole thing seemed bizarre: let’s take a relaxing, therapeutic activity and make it EXTREME! We will WRESTLE BIG FISH and grit our teeth as we HOLD ON TO RODS VERY TIGHT!
What is it about us as a species that makes us continually want to ‘go one better’ than anyone else. Show that we’re better, “harder” than everyone else? Prove that we can push even the most innocent of activities to the very limit. Maybe it’s some left over urge to be the ‘alpha’ male or female - a need to show off for any potential mate. Or maybe just it’s the need to show off. I’m simplifying like mad here, but hey – any more scientific/philosophic insight is very much welcome!
To end this musing, I want to share with you my own favourite example of this bizarre urge to Man Up: Extreme Reading. One of my friends is a huge Jasper Fforde fan (as am I – and I urge any bookworm to check out his novels, as they are a surreal mixture of references/homages and rambling adventure) and has entered his annual competition to find the most Extreme Reader. Click here to learn about his death defying encounter with the Birmingham Bull for the sake of reading. Much harder than any poncy fishing expedition.