Sunday, January 14, 2007


It's so easy to become desensitized to death when you read about it or see it on TV all the time. When I hear about strange circumstances like death by water intoxication while trying to win a Nintendo Wii, I try to go through a little exercise where I humanize the situation. I may not develop a historically accurate picture of the actual events, but I think it's a valuable diversion anyway.

"She was telling me about her family and her three kids and how she was doing it for her kids," said one of the contestants.

Before I begin an activity or competition like this, I usually have to make the case to myself that I can succeed. I have to mentally prepare myself with reasons why I can accomplish my goal, in order to summon the motivation I need. The type of preparation required differs based on the nature of the feat. Imagine the mental preparations that go into a lengthy task like climbing Mount Everest or running a marathon (I did a slow 5:16:31 in the 2004 Motorola Marathon). Now contrast that with the type of mental preparation that people like the cast of Jackass undergo when performing most of their stunts. I think the latter is usually both much quicker and more . It involves more phrases like, 'If I can just sit still, it will be over.' Witness the riot control test stunt from Jackass Number Two, in which the guys are hit with a blast of small rubber balls going 500 feet per second. Johnny Knoxville says something to the others like, "It's gonna hurt like hell, but you just have to stand there ..."

This woman had to have been thinking, 'I just have to drink a lot of water, and I win this toy for my kids -- I can do that.' She couldn't have imagined that death was even a possibility when she took this on (maybe in contrast to the Jackass cast). I try to imagine the moment when she realizes that she is in trouble. Does she have time to think of her kids? Does she think about the fact that she might have just given her life to win a toy?

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