11 November 2020

Risk Appetite and the Pursuit of Pleasure

I recently went on a vacation which had a large outdoor component. I went hiking, and in parts of the trail I was on involved atypical activities, like bouldering, climbing on large rocks, using steel ladders, and clinging on to chains attached to slippery rock walls in order to move forward. Yes, there were areas where a wrong step could lead to one's death. Was it a risky activity? Perhaps. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely.

See, after my trip, I was told by some people I know that I should not have gone. That I should not have risked my life by hiking on a dangerous trail. But I am not sure I agree. You only live once. And if there are activities that you enjoy, then why would you not do it because some people have died doing the same thing before?

Yes, there was a point in the trail when I was perched high up on a rock towering above the valley. And on one side of the rock, there was this small cross that was set up as a memorial. Someone must have slipped to their death some years ago. Of course, I try not to slip. I am careful, I use the right equipment, and I only hike in ideal conditions. And while I know the risks, I also know of probabilities. A lot more people have done the same thing in the past and survived, compared to those who died.

Yes, I think risks are also about probabilities. Given some activity, what's the probability that you would die while doing that activity? If it is high then I would not engage in it. But if it low enough, then I could consider doing it. And it happens that people don't have the same risk appetite. And I hope that people don't judge when I engage in activities that they might consider risky. Alas, that is not always the case.

In any case, I live for myself and the pursuit of pleasure, and if pleasure as personally defined come with some risks, I can calculate whether this risk is something I can afford. If others disagree, then I let them be. It is after all my enjoyment.

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