A surfer riding a wave finds the best position in order to most efficiently move along with the wave knowing there is a fine line here between success and failure. In thinking of various human activities, I think there is often an area where two conflicting endeavors come together to create an area of tension, where one must position oneself in order to most effectively deal with the situation.
There are many variations of this “edge effect.” Often in sports there is a zone of tension, the edge, where one can venture, pushing until the absolute edge of safety is reached, then drawing back, often repeating this over and over.
We also often encounter the phenomenon in dealng with people. At first there is a back and forth interplay between two people when they meet until each becomes familiar with the boundaries of the other person. We learn where we can venture and where we can’t. We learn where we need to tread lightly and where there is no need to do so. When we find ourselves in this position, we can simply take things easy and keep away from those boundary areas where the tension is greatest, or we may deliberately skirt near these areas, knowing that possible trouble might result, but somehow taking satisfaction in riding the edge.
One can encounter this edge effect or zone in many human endeavors. For example, in cooking, some cooks tend to experiment and push the taste possibilities, learning the boundaries of taste sensation, and often adding or subtracting ingredients to enhance this edge. Ecologists are aware of this edge effect, realizing that in this ecotone is often found the greatest species diversity.
This area of tension is where we seem to be most alive, most aware of our existence. Somehow at this knife’s edge, life can seem sweeter as our perceptions step into overdrive; everything is more real, enhanced with the realization that all can be lost or all can be gained right here, right now.
People vary in their reaction to this edge. Some find it frightening, and stay far back in the safe zone, sticking to the tried and true, whereas others tend to push the boundaries, skating on the edge, reveling in the excitement that is intimately intertwined with the tension. I often see women who always seem to choose the most inappropriate abusive partners, snubbing the “nice guys” for some inexplicable reason. I suspect they tend to be excitement junkies, preferring the dangerous edge for the safer middle ground.
Personally I always like to hold back as long as possible before the denouement, slowly reading a good book, unwilling to reach the end, or eating a delicious meal slowly, savoring the taste as long as possible.
A dog will gobble his food down immediately, and then look around for more, licking his chops, whereas a cat tends to eat slower and more fastidiously. I think that I tend to identify with the cat more than the dog in this sort of situation. I like to take it slow and easy, savoring each moment until the crest is reached and then…riding the edge.