Is it worth your life?


I’ve been thinking about the risks many of us take in our everyday lives after the tragedy aboard the Titan that was lost journeying to the Titanic, resting 12,500 feet below the North Atlantic.

Be honest: if that was a $250 trip, instead of costing $250,000, how many of you would have signed up for a ride on the submersible?

I can’t swim and I’m a bit claustrophobic, so I doubt I would have booked an expedition with OceanGate. But I’ve done a bunch of other, less-daunting things.


I once bungee jumped because my friends and I wanted to see what it felt like. But seriously? Jumping off a platform with an elastic cord around my ankles secured by somebody I just met? I wouldn’t do that again.

Or the time I went skydiving on a dare. It was a tandem jump and the instructor on my back practically had to pry my fingers off the plane’s doorway to get us in flight. But it was so exhilarating that I did it a second time with my wife, Nina, as a surprise for her birthday. We didn’t take time to find our wills or even tell friends where we were or what we were doing. The folly of that move snatched me by the throat when months later at the same facility a patron and instructor plunged to their deaths when a chute failed to open.

There was another time when we were in Paris. Like most knuckleheads who won’t ask for help, I tried to figure out on my own how folks made it across the multi-lane thoroughfare to the Arc de Triomphe. I grabbed Nina’s hand and we dashed into the roadway, dodging cars in a death-defying sprint to a median and then again to the famed arch. Once there, shocked tourists wanted to figure out if I was high before explaining that there was an underground walkway to the monument.

Just dumb.

And then there was the experience that really made me think about the Titan and its five passengers. While vacationing in Hawaii my family and I came upon a kiosk offering a submarine ride down to shipwrecks. It was only about a 100-foot descent, and the line wasn’t too long, so we signed up. This sub looked like a prototype from ages gone by.

Nevertheless, we boarded the vessel and when the hatch was closed, I immediately felt my blood pressure rise and my heart beat quicken. After about 10 minutes I calmed myself and got into the incredible experience of exploring the deep. I was amazed at how much sunlight made it through the water at that depth, the sea life swimming around, including some porpoises, and the shipwrecks and litter on the bottom. I wished other people could see the junk we were putting down there. And I was relieved when the captain announced our ascent to the surface.

I can imagine the terror those on the Titan must have felt when things went wrong. They had risked it all for a trip to see a dead ship haunted by 1,500 ghosts. It is a stark reminder that everything we can do, we shouldn’t; and that we’d all be better off if we thought more deeply about what’s really worth risking our lives for.

Free soloing on a mountain side? Skiing uncharted territory? Drag racing down a metro highway? Trying to drink two liters of Vodka at a frat initiation?

Research shows 30 percent of the US population is born with one of two thrill seeking genes; 20 percent of the population is born with both. That’s a recipe for danger.

I know what it’s like to be young, confident, and feeling invincible, or even old, stubborn and thrill seeking.

I can say that kind of risk taking is over, and I wished I had been more thoughtful about the chances I took years earlier. I treasure the experiences, but shudder at the level of potential peril. There are things worth risking your life for, like jumping in deep water to save your child even if you can’t swim. I’ve done that.

I’m lucky to be here after all the risks I’ve taken. After the Titan implosion, I’m telling everyone to think hard before risking your life for a thrill or a dare. It just isn’t worth it.