I recently completed a one thousand mile motorcycle ride (in one sitting) to visit my family. Nineteen hours later (fuel stops included) I was standing (not sitting) at their kitchen counter drinking a beer. I was thinking about limits. The ride had reminded me how important it is to know your own limits, and while riding through the Missouri hills I thought about how important limits are to all of us.
Right now most of us are not aware of limits, but a motorcycle (in my case) is a very bad place to first learn of them. I think I was at mine when I was singing loudly into my helmet a version of “Spiderman” that I called “Bobblehead”. Any athlete will know their limits, how to stretch them and when it is a good idea not to. Not to know your limits will sometimes cost you your life and other times just make things a bit uncomfortable; in the former you met your limits and in the latter you stretched your limits.
There are limits that we must all abide by, both our own and the ultimate limit that we all share: reality. Right now we do not seem to understand that the ultimate limit applies to all of us; no matter what, and no matter who we are. I once read that if a jet engine had a purpose, that purpose was to blow up. That struck me in an odd way. Evolution is a blind machine that, perhaps, has the same purpose. Watching a beehive, for example, is a brutal reminder of that “purpose”.
So, what do airplanes and Evolution have in common with this kinda-sorta preachy little bit about limits? Well, for one thing neither evolution nor airplanes have limits: extinction and explosion are not limits. Such things simply act as their nature (and nature itself) dictate. We humans are a bit different: we have the capacity for thought and the belief that we can act upon those thoughts. We have limits that we can stretch for these reasons. Or do we?
Is it the nature of human beings to destroy themselves, to not stretch but break the natural confines in which we live? Such a thought is disturbing to many and for many reasons. First, we are doomed if this is so. Secondly, we are not free if this is so. Third, the capacity for thought is an illusion. Perhaps we are just another blind alley that Evolution follows. I don’t like to think so, but I am wary of not doing so.
Destruction is part of nature, it is inevitable, but our own destruction at our own hands (I would like to think) is not; it cannot be. However, in order for us to learn how to stretch our limits, we must first know that we have limits. Perhaps it is time for us to find a way to define our limits before those inextricable and inescapable limits cost us the very thing that we are so fond of: living at any cost.