Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter," was killed today when a Stingray he was following whacked him in the chest with its tail barb, puncturing his heart and killing him. While this is very sad - and many of us, me included, will miss the foolish little man - it was fairly predictable. He was a serial animal botherer, grabbing deadly snakes like Green Mambas by the tail while narrating into the camera, swimming in crocodile-infested waters, sticking his nose into holes known to be occupied by Komodo Dragons and the like - all the while telling us not to do the same, because it was really bloody dangerous. "Steve Irwin Killed by Wild Animal" is as predictable a death headline as "Hip Hop Artist Shot, Killed After Music Awards" or "Mountaineer Dies on Everest" It's what often happens when you do that kind of thing, and if you are engaged in that lifestyle, and can't see that the Reaper walks alongside you, then you are a fool.
People often don't think about their own mortality. I spent time as a soldier, now I race bikes, and I eat at sketchy barbecue and ethnic food joints. I also drive on the Beltway regularly. It is very human to say "it can't happen to me," but by God, it happens to somebody, every damn time.
There's nothing wrong with courting danger. You should be honest with yourself and others about the risk, and take steps to manage the risk. Steve Irwin - he who held Green Mambas by the tail, was tree-ed by a Komodo Dragon, and who swam with crocs and sharks - wasn't honest about the risk. Remember a few years ago when he walked his young (infant) son into a croc tank, and it seemed like he wasn't even cognizant of the danger? That's denial, folks. Learn to recognize it and avoid it.
In fact, I'll go one step further than saying there's nothing wrong with courting danger. Doing so with a dash of prudence is very human. Seeking to overcome risk and danger is perhaps the most noble (non-metaphysical) human endeavor, other than sacrificing yourself for another person. It is the very soul of life to be challenged, and to overcome. But we must be honest about the nature of our past times if we are going to take up the gauntlet of physical danger. It cheapens the overcoming, lessens the bravery, and makes a mockery out of the virtue of courage if we blunder into and out of danger. As they used to tell me when I wore a tree suit, there ain't no glory in being stupid.
You also owe a duty (that's a tough part of courage, you know - doing your duty) to your family and friends to know the risk, to be honest about it, and to prepare for the chance you might not make it back from the next ride, shark swim, or parachute jump. Keep your insurance paid up. Tell them you love them. Visit church once in a while and keep in The Man's good books, if you're so inclined. Live life to the absolute fullest, both on the side of doing your duty, and having fun.
But don't lie to yourself and tell yourself you are exceptional. You aren't. Although we know not the moment, we know that the reaper rides with us at all times, and while today may not be the day, tomorrow just might be. Accept it, be brave, and overcome, but like a good boy scout, be prepared. And for God's sake, don't swing Green Mambas around by the tail. That's just asking for it.