Today is August 6 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you approach, or pass, the edge?” In her 2009 novel Handle with Care, American fiction writer Jodi Picoult wrote “I wondered about the explorers who'd sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” Challenging themselves to do more than they previously thought possible, the edge remains ever present and beckons those destined to seek it as the lighthouse provides a ray of hope in the darkness. The edge reminds us of our potential. The edge invites anyone willing to look deep inside of themselves. One of the greatest American writers of the last few decades, Hunter S. Thompson, navigated the chaos and explored the edge throughout his writing career.
In his critically acclaimed Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, Thompson wrote “The Edge...There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others-the living-are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still Out there.”
As Patrick Doyle wrote in Rolling Stone “Thompson lived and wrote on the edge in a style that would come to be called Gonzo journalism. That term captured his lifestyle, but it didn’t really do justice to Thompson’s command of language, his fearless reporting or his fearsome intellect.”
Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky, served in the Air Force, and worked as a journalist in Puerto Rico before moving to San Francisco, where an article about the Hells Angels turned into a book project. He spent almost two years riding with the outlaw motorcycle gang, and in 1966 he published a bestseller that took readers deep inside a subculture largely inaccessible to the outside world.
In 1970, he wrote an unconventional magazine feature titled "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" for Scanlan's Monthly, which both raised his profile and established him as a writer with counterculture credibility. It also set him on a path to establishing his own subgenre of New Journalism that he called "Gonzo", which was essentially an ongoing experiment in which the writer becomes a central figure and even a participant in the events of the narrative.
Thompson remains best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), a book first serialized in Rolling Stone in which he grapples with the implications of what he considered the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement.
In The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, Thompson proclaimed “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”
The concept of living life on the edge, and maybe even going over it ever now and then, often appears in popular culture. One example is from the 1992 film The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston (as Rachel Marron – a rising pop singer) and Kevin Costner (as Frank Farmer – as her new bodyguard). In one scene late in the film, Marron and Farmer are sitting outside at night, she looks up at the stars and tells him
“I didn't get to this place in my life by doing the smart thing every time. (Frank nods)
How 'bout you, Frank Farmer? Out there on the edge... did you ever do something that didn't make too much sense, except maybe inside you? In your stomach somewhere? Something that wasn't smart? (She looks at him) I'll bet you have plenty. I'll bet you do. Nobody gets really good without it. And you're good. I know that.”
The edge is there. It is waiting patiently. It never moves. The question is, will you go near it? Will you get close to it? Or will you go over it? As with each daily question and strategy for navigating the chaos, approaching, or passing the edge may be better left for others. Today’s strategy is an option; just like the other 364 posts in this Navigate the Chaos series.
To paraphrase Picoult, would you risk being terrified of falling over the edge only to discover the place you had only seen in your dreams?
Do you accept that the edge is still out there waiting for you?
Do you agree with Thompson that life should be a ‘skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke?’
How often do you approach, or pass, the edge?