My current job – a “temporary” job (as if there were any other kind) – is situated blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, and I often take advantage of this with a lunchtime stroll to enjoy the sun, sand, ocean, and people-watching.
Not long ago on just such an outing, I witnessed something that stopped me in my tracks…and rekindled a childhood fantasy.
Imagine seeing Spider-Man (sans costume) shooting webs from one outstretched arm and then the other to maneuver his way mid-air from building to building, swinging gleefully all the while. But instead of swinging through the air by way of (not-yet-available-in-real-life) humanized-spider webbing, he is propelling himself by clutching the next in a series of gymnastic rings, which hang from a metallic construction secured to the ground on Santa Monica Beach.
“Whooooooooaaaaaa!” I said, probably out loud.
And thus began my regular stops to watch real-life superheroes in action just south of the Santa Monica Pier. (There is a whole outdoor “gym” in this area, free to the public, and people use it to perform a wide variety of stunts and acrobatic displays worthy of any number of Marvel or DC characters.)
“I want to be Spider-Man!” I thought. And, really, after watching a number of people have a go at it, it didn’t look all that difficult to swing from ring to ring (though some certainly did it more theatrically than others).
So, one day I finally decided to transition from observer to participant, from mere mortal to would-be-superhero. I took my shoes off, stepped onto the beach, and mustered up the nerve to approach the rings myself and give it a whirl.
And you know what?
It was hard!
Waaaaaay harder than it looked.
Most of the people I had been watching would sail through all ten rings, and then maneuver their way back in the same manner. I, however, reached the second ring and then, after hanging for a few moments like dead weight, promptly dropped to the ground.
Fortunately, I keep Eleanor Roosevelt’s maxim close to my heart: “You cannot be embarrassed without your consent.”
And, so, the injury to my pride was minuscule. In fact, it wasn’t humiliation that came over me upon having my inadequate upper body strength (not to mention lack of grace and technique) so matter-of-factly pointed out.
I became filled, instead, with a sense of mission. I had stumbled upon nothing short of a new life purpose: I was going to learn how to do this!!!
And having a life purpose that you are actively pursuing – however trivial, silly, impractical, insignificant, childish, unimportant, or ridiculous it might seem to others – is (you’ll pardon the term) the shit!
Why? Because it means you’re engaged. And being engaged means being alive (something merely having a pulse does not guarantee).
This story is still in progress. I haven’t (yet) become like Spider-Man. But I have been bitten by a radioactive spider, so to speak. And so my (super)hero’s journey has begun…
To get a better idea of exactly what I’m talking about, check out the “Amazing” Spider-Men and Spider-Woman who use these rings with real finesse in the YouTube video (that I did not create) below: