The audacity of youth is in its unquestioned thinking that time does not concern it, that death is an imaginary, far off event that simply cannot intrude upon its life as now imagined!
Even those times when death came close and brushed its barely felt crows wings across ones face, were simply seen as spice added to the natural zest of living.
Once when having almost shot an African man dead (another story) when shooting at an impala we, (my younger brother John and I), came home as young pups and reluctantly sat down with our upset Afrikaner host who was a friend of our mother’s. He was chastising our lack of sense in taking a rifle – a point 22 – and going off all day in the bush without letting anyone know where we were.
“…where Africans are poaching wildlife, where there are wild animals, leopards and baboons, and poisonous snakes and anything could have happened.”
We sat glum and “schtum”, without telling him that we did come across poachers and boldly confiscated their spears, machetes and barbed wire snares, then, later were accosted by an angry cobra which danced its open hood in front of my frozen face for at least five of the longest minutes of my life. All this was going through our minds when KABOOM!!! A ringing in the ears followed by a wave of panic…
The old man was cleaning a 6.5 Mauser, which just went off without warning. He didn’t know we had loaded it that morning at 6 o clock and at the last minute decided to leave it behind. The bullet grazed my scalp and a thin trail of blood trickled down my bone white face as the sound rang in my deafened ears tears streaming down my cheeks.
The next morning, Oom (uncle) Paul, whose hair that previous evening was jet black, came down to breakfast with his hair now completely white! Apparently caused by the tremendous fright he’d got that previous unforgettable night. I didn’t feel that I’d escaped death but felt more shameful than anything else for having set this whole thing up, just because I needed some adventure without adults clipping my wings…
I have had many narrow escapes through the years, all caused by a combustible combination of blind stubbornness and foolhardy optimism.
The remarkable thing is that when death did come, I was given a taste of it (NDE) and was immediately dispatched back into the life I had to finally face and come to terms with. This, over a period of time, caused an existential crisis where I had to face the finality and very real possibility of physical death while undergoing a spiritual death and rebirth.
The fruits of that “dauntless exuberance” has left me chastened and tempered in the fire of an unconditional loving. This in turn has given me a sense of gratitude for the very ordinariness of each day as it comes, with all its elements of successfully negotiating the never-ending spiritual obstacle course of everyday life, with wit, humor and yes, dauntless exuberance, in the knowledge that Life is unborn and unending, and we are that life gifted in love. What an endless and rare treasure to hold precious!