How To Be Stupid


Esquire (Philippines) - - MAHB - BY MOOKIE KATIGBAK LACUESTA

SOME AD­VEN­TURES are taken on with in­cre­men­tal lev­els of stupid. Such as Baguio’s Tree­top Ad­ven­ture—a zi­pline si­t­u­ated 100 feet above premium pine and rolling moun­tain. You’re not by any stretch the zi­pline-type, your idea of ad­ven­ture be­ing to re­cite lines of po­etry on a bridge—but you’re ad­ven­tur­ous un­der pres­sure; and your mar­ried friends, Mike and Joee, look at ease at high al­ti­tudes—al­ready Mike is strapped onto his har­ness, ready to go. So af­ter he takes his turn, eyes di­lated, body shocked sense­less, you de­cide, OK, if he can do it, so can I. Your in­ner voice tells you all will be well as long as you don’t look down. But the view be­low is stun­ning be­yond mea­sure, and you just have to look. There’s miles and miles of vir­gin pine be­low, and the sun above is haloed in cloudy light. And al­though the zi­pline prom­ises to be one long blink, you get through it with your eyes wide open, and a wild rash of goose­bumps on your skin.

In The So­ci­ety of Timid Souls, au­thor Polly Mor­land ven­tures into the dif­fer­ent kinds of courage, or the dif­fer­ent kinds of stupid, how­ever way you want to look at it. Among other brave souls, she in­ter­views surfers, ex-cons, fam­i­lies of dec­o­rated sol­diers and fire­fight­ers. All of whom know some­thing about courage. It is not the ab­sence of fear, not by any stretch; it’s how one over­comes fear for causes big­ger than one­self—a giant wave or a burn­ing build­ing. You’re not a hero, but you know about fear. And about how not miss­ing a spec­tac­u­lar view—and the col­lec­tion of spec­tac­u­lar views that amount to liv­ing a full life—means be­ing brave.

A year later, courage calls like an ex, butt-dial­ing your num­ber at three in the morn­ing. It feels ran­dom but in­evitable. You’re two hours away from Osaka with your hus­band and small son. You’ve promised your son snow—it’s De­cem­ber, and you want to give him a white Christ­mas, just like the ones you’ve never known. The re­sort isn’t lux­ury—by which you mean it comes with guerilla joys, not safety mea­sures. The bus takes you to a small hill with gray slush. Slim pick­ings. Your son looks at you, dis­ap­pointed. “Is this it?” his ex­pres­sion asks. No, it isn’t. Be­tween slush and snow in the hills be­yond is a crick­ety ski lift. No safety belts on the old con­trap­tion. You’re wear­ing your slick down jacket from Uniqlo, and he’s wear­ing his. They keep you warm, sure, but they’re also slip­pery, es­pe­cially when they rub against some­one else’s poufy jacket.

Your hus­band has al­ready jumped into the lift be­fore yours. Miss this chance, and you’ll go half a day with­out see­ing him. Your parental in­stincts kick in—there aren’t any seat­belts, in­stinct says; I don’t know any­one in this town, in­stinct says again. You look at your son: I’m re­spon­si­ble for this small life; but your hus­band is al­ready cheer­ing into the wind, and your lift has ar­rived. And even be­fore you have a choice in the mat­ter, the lift op­er­a­tor benev­o­lently nudges your ass into what looks like an old school chair. And sweet Je­sus, holy Mary, your fleece feels slip­pery against your son’s jacket and you hold onto him for dear life.

It hap­pens that you reach the snowy hills safely and with­out a hitch. The af­ter­noon is a flurry of sleigh rides, cider breaks, snow­men. You watch af­fec­tion­ately as your son builds his first snow­man with packed ice, bot­tle caps and sticks. You’ve made in the gray mush of his young brain the high­est parental achieve­ment: a child­hood mem­ory. On the way back to the bus, you give a con­fi­dent salute to the lift op­er­a­tor. Courage un­locked, you tell your­self, pat­ting your poufy Uniqlo jacket on the back.

Screw courage for be­ing so much eas­ier in youth, you think to your­self, on the bus ride back to Osaka. Once, you climbed a wa­ter­fall in Bi­col wear­ing two-inch heels. You used to un­buckle your safety belt in air­planes dur­ing ter­ri­ble tur­bu­lence. You once rode an out­rig­ger boat on Black Satur­day when the mo­tor rasped to mo­men­tary death in the mid­dle of the ocean. You didn’t mind—the stars had never shone as bright, and had never looked as near. You’re get­ting older, you tell your­self, but you don’t want to forego any of the plea­sures made for the brave, even if they in­clude zi­plines and tricky ski lifts.

This year, you’re rid­ing to Rome on tick­ets you bought back in Fe­bru­ary. “Watch out for the gyp­sies,” your fam­ily and friends tell you over Sun­day brunch: now’s not a good time for Europe, be vig­i­lant, check the weather. Okay doom­say­ers, you tell them, that’s enough.

You pre­tend to duck into the bath­room but what you re­ally do is pull out your smartphone and Google: best travel in­sur­ance. Af­ter a few duds, you find the one you’re look­ing for: a small premium, high cov­er­age, and—wait for it—a concierge. One you can call from any­where in the world, and who can re­fer you to spe­cial­ists any­where you sprain an an­kle or choke on puffer­fish. One that can, in the­ory, score you some Broad­way tick­ets.

Then you rub your hands in glee: it’s time to get stupid.

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