Ride the Lightning

You think too goddamned much. Don’t ask me how I know. Oh, it’s because I also think too much. It’s a failing of the human condition, to think more than to act, to spend hours looping backwards on oneself, recursively analyzing decisions already made or choices yet to come, as if any of it leads anywhere other than an eventual grave anyway.

But don’t get too caught up in fretting over the likely outcome of having been alive. The point is to live now.

In my daily natterings with friends and business associates, I find myself frequently exhorting them to ride the lightning. It’s a response to any idea proffered which is self-evidently good, a thing that should be pursued without further question, if only to see where it goes, a too funny joke, a new relationship, a large burrito, a rope swing over a river, a fried Oreo.

Of course, one must also ride the lightning out on the bike. As an example. you’re rolling along in the woods with some friends. Perhaps you’re on your local trails. You know the place real well. But lo, what’s this? Some kids have been in here over the weekend with some shovels and half-baked ideas. They’ve cut an ill-advised line off the main path, over to a gnarly looking boulder, propped some smaller rocks in front of it as a sketchy entry point, and then scraped an exit back to the trail.

Should you ride it? I think you know the answer.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re all like, “Those kids shouldn’t just be breaking new trail wherever they want. That’s irresponsible.” And you’re right. But cut it out. Riding the lightning doesn’t always allow for “responsibility” or “getting home uninjured.”

Needs must.

It is much too easy to dismiss these opportunities to gild life’s lilies as frivolous immaturities. The consequences of such a choice is growing miserably older, taking refuge in a fleeting “wisdom,” and failing to reach for whatever brass ring of transcendence life deigns occasionally to offer you. You’re getting more cautious and boring by the second.

Besides, some of the nicest people I’ve met are X-ray technicians.

Ride the Lightning is Metallica’s second album. They weren’t idiot millionaires yet. They hadn’t become calculating mega-stars, sucked into their own navel-gazing sense of self-importance. It was 1984. That record, perhaps unconsciously, was actually just a musical paraphrasing of the late Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” He wrote it in 1947. This too isn’t an original idea. Maybe it was Icarus, in fact, flapping his waxen wings for all they were worth, sailing toward the sun, who first dared to ride the lightning.

You might think, “A ha! I knew caution was the better the path,” but Icarus had a hell of a ride, and as a human, there is no escaping hubris. Even the idea that you can outwit death by keeping your feet firmly affixed to the ground points to the folly of the course you’re on, and me standing next to you, mouth-breathing, like the oaf I am.

Join the conversation
  1. Ransom says

    Thank you. I can’t claim to be all that great at thinking, but I certainly do too much of it sometimes. I know I’ve erred too often on the side of thinking myself to a standstill when I could’ve and probably should’ve just done a rad thing.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Ransom – Same. We all do this. I want to do it less.

  2. TominAlbany says

    The thinking burns. And my ass is scorched… (Where does that place my head?0

  3. Dan Murphy says

    “Overthink” is my middle name. Ask my wife who will just go out and buy a TV at BJ’s, while I will spend a week in front of the computer looking at sizes, the latest tech, features, reviews and all sorts of other stuff until my eyes are glazed over and my mind is mush. Analysis paralysis, baby. My wife is getting tired of my research and because the old TV reboots every 15 minutes and she just wants a new one. Then, I FINALLY decide on a TV, bring it home, connect it up, turn it on – and realize I really didn’t care about all that stuff – I’m just watching TV.

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