Styles Of Madness

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Lately I have had to calculate a lot of risk.
The math goes something like this:
Is the exhilaration that X brings me worth potentially splattering, drowning or exploding in mid-air?

If so, exactly how big is the risk of dying compared to the thrill I’ll get from said moment of living. Personally, I prefer the ratio to be 1:1,000,000, whereas Tree considers 1:5 a bargain.

On a day to day basis, most people don’t have to think about their fear of dying on a conscious level, but being married to Tree, I get to consider it quite often. Just the other day I was standing on the edge of a cliff wondering…

Yet, in reality, our death anxiety is always present. We just keep it repressed because if we didn’t, we’d be existentialists—depressive twentieth-century philosophers who wore black turtlenecks, smoked cigarettes, and wrote really long books and confounding plays on the meaninglessness of life.

In one such Pulitzer-prize winning book, appropriately called The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker explains how man is torn between his symbolic, self-conscious awareness and his flesh and bones, brute nature:  The same creature that names himself, imagines, explores and speculates his own everlasting heroism is, in the end, nothing more than worm food.

This conscious awareness of our imminent death can be a bit maddening.

“Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.” –Blaise Pascal
In other words, we go through crazy measures to repress our death anxiety, because if we didn’t, we’d go a different kind of crazy.
Ernest Becker calls Pascal’s necessary styles of madness ‘vital lies;’ we create these social constructs to give meaning and heroic status to our earthly life, as well as hope of an afterlife. For example, Capitalism and Christianity are two widely held vital lies in the United States. The bigger our bank accounts, the higher and more important is our social status, and if we believe in Jesus, we trump the worm food problem with a soul that goes to heaven.
This is all fine and dandy, unless of course you happen to be a hellbound Jew, Muslim- or god forbid, homeless person, the least valued member in our society.
The problem with vital lies is that they tend to be mutually exclusive, and we’re willing to fight to the death to prove that our own vital lie is the real truth—hence the billions of people that have died in the name of god and country.
But what does any of this have to do with Tree and me? We’re not religious, nor are we particularly concerned about climbing any social ladders. So what do we do to give meaning to our life in the face of imminent death? What is our vital lie?

What is our style of madness?

In looking at our life and the choices we make, it seems Tree and I think that maybe we can cheat death by squeezing in as much life as possible. This has become even truer for me since I’ve been with Tree, who thinks life itself is an extreme sport. And as for our hero complex, well….
It’s bird, it’s a plane, it’s SUPER NOMAD!
What is your style of madness? We want to know. Post it in a comment below…


  1. Holy S#@TTTTT. How the hell did you get Stevie to do that? Unexpected. Very unexpected.

  2. Oh yeah, my style of madness is reading SPRINTER LIFE!

  3. Well son, we know Stevie is amazing, but where is the video of you proving that you jumped off the mountain…..don't disappoint me now!

  4. Hey Senior, what do you think I am, crazy? I can't be jumping off cliffs. For one it's dangerous. Plus I have bad feet. Plus it was windy. Plus I didn't get a good breakfast. Plus…………TREE

    ps. just kidding, thats me in the orange kite. What a great sport. I'm already looking into schools to get my pilots license. In one week I could be certified to fly solo. Just need to find a good school.

  5. Dave Adair says:

    The two videos are great! "Why do I have to go first?" Stevie looked like a little girl when she said that. And the run down the hill? Holy Hannah.

    I'm sure you've already thought about this, Tree, but Stevie is the brave one – cuz she's scared as hell but still jumps. You're excited but not scared. Big props to anyone who overcomes their fears and goes for it anyway.

    This might have been the single scariest event for me: quitting my job to take a two-year trip around the world. Petrified! Wanted to bail! But I went anyway, and it was really transformative. Here's to taking the plunge!


  6. seriously, you guys need to get your own reality show or something

  7. Used to be straddling a sport bike with a ridiculous power-to-weight ratio, wicked up and banking left into a 35 mph corner at 90 with nothing blue sky off the starboard side if I exited too wide. (Ever wondered how Tree and I became business partners?) Now, a dozen years later, it's finding that small piece of pocket water on a creek I can wade across with only my 3 wt fly rod, my thoughts, and the surety that a brook trout is looking for it's next meal!

  8. Cecilia Paredes says:

    Que genial Stevie!!!!! No manches que increible anventura!! Eres fenomenal!!! Te quiero! Los veo pronto familia!!

  9. Ruin Runner Expeditions says:

    Alright, enough fun already. You guys need to come back and reinsert your selfs into society. This is just not fair !!! ; }

  10. Cheryll Anglin says:

    Oh, Stevie! I am so proud of you! YOU ARE AMAZING!!! Honestly, I cried. I just walked in the door from a weekend away and didn't even have time to think about what I was about to see. As you were running toward the edge, I was screaming "No Stevie. Noooo!" Promise me that you will have that baby some awesome place that won't scare the bejesus out of me to visit and I will start saving my money:) Better yet…come have her here! You could have a vacation from your travels and resume when you all are back up an running. I love you, little one.

    Tree – She's a keeper, Tree. She has WAY more bravado that I could ever muster. I trust that your jump was just as elegant.
    Keep up the good work. Love you,

  11. My style? whiskey and bowling! Thats madness for sure. you guys be safe.

  12. Stevie, you are WICKED girl. That was amazing!!! Dave is right. It's so brave to go for it… in spite of the fear. I love you sis. What an amazing example. I can't wait to show Nica…..

  13. Carolyn Schulman says:

    It looks like you are having a wonderful time. Love you, Grandma

  14. Hucking big drops, that is my madness. When are you gonna come to cali and run some rivers with us Tree?

  15. You guys are so rad!! Love it. I've always wanted to try that, and in the Andes, Hells Yeah!! You're working your way up to skydiving….:)

  16. Pinda Hall says:

    Way to Go, Stevie!! 🙂

  17. Madena Bennett says:

    You better be looking up for those Andean Condors…if you somehow get through this trip without one grrr…and don't forget to look for the chickens in the red capes!

  18. Anonymous says:

    super fantastic videos.

  19. what, didn't kiki get a turn? like the look on your face in the video stevie. priceless

  20. mamatuyas says:

    You two are delightful.
    My vital madness? Exploring third world countries and cultures by myself, a woman in my sixties. Having learned that I am my own best friend (and since I take myself where ever I go), I am never alone! And since we are all One, everyone I meet is therefore Me – friends to be enjoyed in all their diversity! Seems you two know this too, yes?
    See you soon, Beloved Ones.

  21. Surfer Girl says:

    Women and children first.
    THAT's WHY !!!!

    Am happy to be writing you from Costa Rica.
    Yep I made it back here.
    I think this is now my 2nd home.
    Made some friends who pretty much said I can come back and visit time and again.

    So grateful forever that your life path introduced me to the world of surfing.

    Love always

  22. Stevie, Tree, and Kiki says:

    Hi everyone. Thank you so much for your awesome comments. I'm replying in full, in reverse.

    @mamamia- Oneness…."Everyone I meet is therefore Me- friends to be enjoyed in all their diversity!" I love this. xoxo

    @kyle- Kiki sat this one out. We had to leave someone behind to tell the story.

    @Madena- I don't need to look up. I was up!!! I bet those Condors were at eye-level 🙂

    @Pinda- Get ready girl…Mendoza here we come!

    @Val- Shhh…Don't give him any ideas! 🙂

    @Carolyn- Thank you grandma! xo.

    @Indra (a.k.a.Sis)- Just trying to live up to my new name. xo.

    @Cheryll- That's funny. I was screaming "Nooooooo" too as I ran off the cliff! I'm not sure where our little bun-to-be will be born, BUT, we'll make sure it's somewhere safe enough for you two to fall in love. xo.

    @RuinRunner- Hells no! I say you get in the FJ and head south….don't forget Jen. xo.

    @Ceci- Yo estaba asustada, pero, fue vale la pena. La proxima vez, tu necessita venir con nosotros!!!

    @PHB- Paul, you and I both know what it's like to be partners with Tree…make no mistake,THAT is your style of madness.

    @Dave- I like you. And I'm with you all the way, "Here's to taking the plunge!!!" Thanks for being a shining example of someone reclaiming the pursuit to happiness by following his own dreams.

    @Senior- You know, I never actually saw him jump either. Very suspicious.

    @Darren- It's mutualy buddy. Half the time I think our style of madness is the blog too! Would I have jumped without it, I don't know?

    Keep 'em coming guys!!! Tell us what gives weight to the unbearable lightness of being, how you create meaning in your life, how you can imagine Sisyphus happy…WHAT IS YOUR VITAL LIE, YOUR STYLE OF MADNESS? -Stevie

  23. Stevie, Tree, and Kiki says:

    @SurferGirl- VG! I am so happy to hear that you're back surfing in CR, finding the inspiration and love you need. You're a natural! So stoked for you. xo. -Stevie

  24. Sarah Lechago says:

    Your travel blog is so amazing! What a wonderful adventurous life. Let's stay in touch. I have tons of family in Argentina and I'd love to visit!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Diane says…Ahhhh . . .my style of madness . . .now, it has to be reading your blogs and so thoroughly enjoying them . . . your adventures and how you both so vividly describe them . . .Stevie , I cannot believe you went first, then again, I really can…I would have been right there with you . . Tree, when you get certified, I want to be your first tandem!!

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