I just found a link to a great video showcasing people being awesome. Some of it is simply displays of remarkable physical prowess but a lot of the clips are showcasing people doing things that are incredibly dangerous - doing flips in the air on a snowmobile, for example. (Apparently people do that?!?) Strangely the video makes me sad and happy simultaneously.
For one thing, watching people at the absolute peak of their potential is a wondrous thing. There is something mesmerizing about seeing the limit of human capabilities. I am not at all a basketball fan and yet I remember watching the last championship Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls and I recall still how incredible it was to watch him play. Even among other amazing athletes the things he could do were unbelievable.
On the other hand it makes me sad to see all of the things I will never do. I feel like I should be out there pushing my limits, stretching my body to the maximum, and doing things that will make people stare at me in awe. Sure, I couldn't do everything I see in those videos but I certainly could do any *one* thing if I tried hard enough and long enough. (Okay, I couldn't do the rollerskating under a car thing, but neither can anybody else but that one kid.) I am getting old and have never done anything that needs to be a youtube video that goes viral, and this needs correcting!
It makes me wonder how much the limits of awesome are changed by our current level of communications. If you live in a village in prehistoric times the only benchmarks of awesome you have are the few dozen or maybe few hundred people you know. Nobody is all that great at anything in that scenario and it isn't hard to be the best at any particular challenge. Today though you can see how astounding the best in the world are and measure yourself against them; nearly everybody knows they will never be notably good at anything. Instead of being happy with being the best juggler in the village you need to come to grips with the fact that you are just some chump who isn't even in the top million jugglers in the world.
Maybe that is a part of why science and progress are so scary for some people. It is hard to maintain an aura of authority when everyone can find people who are better than you at everything. Barring a very few exceptions everybody is known to be ordinary; this is a frightening prospect given how much we all dream of being somebody special.