The Appeal of Danger
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

"Dangers bring fears, and fears more dangers bring" said Richard Baxter. Human nature is so perverse! We pray for peace, happiness, contentment… but when we have too much of it, our human system revolts. It seeks something which will make life exciting - and what it seeks can be summed up in one word: DANGER.

The appeal of danger has aptly been described also as perverse! Perhaps it is this perverse aspect that drives people to see horror movies - the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein. To witness and experience dangerous sights, or to sites where disasters have struck. To the likes of Mick Taylor stalking the West Australian outback in Wolf Creek and scaring the pants off cinemagoers across the world. Any different really, than the effect over the disappearance of countless nirvana-seeking visitors to India from the foothills of the Himalayas and other suspect tourist sites?

The word 'danger' is from Old French 'dangier' meaning "power to harm" - interpreted as, the power of the Lord. The word ultimately derived from the Latin 'dominium' ownership of the master: the power or authority of master: influenced by the damage 'damnum' there from! Human nature always seeks something which has an element of danger in it because danger has a strange appeal. It intrigues….. It excites…. It has its own charisma.

The noun 'danger' has four meanings: firstly, it is the condition of being susceptible to harm or injury; secondly it means a venture undertaken without regard to possible loss or injury (synonymous with risk or peril); thirdly it denotes a cause of pain or injury or loss; and lastly - a dangerous place. Inevitably in a Devil's definition, Ambat Delaso has poetically described 'danger' to be: "A savage beast which, when it sleeps,/ Man girds at and despises,/ But takes himself away by leaps/ And bounds when it arises."

Synonymous with peril, hazard, risk and Jeopardy, danger is the generic term and implies some contingent evil in prospect. Peril is instant or impending danger; as, in peril of one's life. Hazard arises from something fortuitous or beyond our control; as, the hazard of the seas. Risk is doubtful or danger, often incurred voluntarily; as, to risk an engagement. Jeopardy is extreme danger. Danger of a contagious disease; the perils of shipwreck; the hazards of speculation; the risk of daring enterprises; a life brought into jeopardy.

Aristotle had sagaciously concluded: "A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies". Then George Bernard Shaw was candid when he declared: "In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it." For Winston Churchill, "If you meet danger promptly and without flinching - you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!" But then, he was not talking of the Danger which is appealing because it brings with it the wonderful feeling of excitement. One gets "a kick out of" doing something for the sheer excitement and thrill of it all. A stolen kiss is always sweeter - so goes the cliché, and true it is! Take a simple thing (?) like marriage. It is that rare marriage where the conjugal bliss lasts forever, for invariably after sometime the gooey glamour of it all wears off and the seven year itch begins. The 'thrill' of an extra-marital affair beckons and there are not many who do not get tempted; do not succumb.

Man has a certain sense of self-importance which makes him do things that fan the flames of his ego. He wants to do something which others cannot do. By this he knows he will get recognition, or even notoriety. So man looks for danger. He chooses a path which is dangerous, which has a certain element of risk. He knows that if he is successful in this 'dangerous' venture then he will be famous. His egotism, his narcissism, goads him towards this danger zone, because as Herbert shofield says, "Egotism is the anaesthetic which nature gives us to deaden the pain of being a fool".

When the urge comes on or surfaces, of course the initial hesitation is there to inhibit. But this hesitation only tends to heighten the anticipated thrill, the urge to overcome the hurdle and climb the mountain, to savour the forbidden fruit. The very story of mankind, one is apt to say, from the time of the Biblical genesis - when the thrill of eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge led Eve partake of it and to tempt Adam to follow suit. Once the threshold is crossed, despite the pervading and engulfing sense of guilt that frightens, the danger appeal prevails! …to want more, to sin more and more!

The appeal of danger strikes all; particularly the young adults with a devil may care attitude, and the even younger whose romantic visions fail to fathom the depth of danger often to their detriment and regret. It is this excitement generating adventurism that gave birth to Superman and a plethora of heroes for the young, to flirt with danger and win over evil much to the delight of all. Also the popular, critically acclaimed young adult series of "Danger Boy" that turns history on its head in the time-travelling adventures of Eli Sands, as he encounters both real, fictional, and otherworldly events and characters in an exciting sequence of time-spanning adventures. Its celebrated author Mark London Williams confesses: the series originated thanks to his son Elijah; who when a toddler used to run down the halls of the house yelling: "I'm a 'Danger Boy!' ….I'm a 'Danger Boy!'" Danger appeal spares not toddlers too!

I must end with Friedrich Nietzsche's quote on 'danger' - the best one I have come across: "The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything."

950 words: 17.01..2006:
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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