From The Editors: February 14, 2018
Curbing cabin fever to the extreme
Where does adrenaline come from?
Physiologists might point to the adrenal glands directly above the kidneys or the neurons of the sympathetic nervous system, which governs the body's "fight-or-flight" response. The majority of us, however, would point to a wildly diverse range of external stimuli — the things that drive us, excite us, or perhaps even flat-out scare us. These things are not found within an anatomy textbook, but within the binding of experience. The things that quicken our pulse are often not merely cheap thrills; they are markers of our identity. When adrenaline is heightened, so is our sense of self.
Since most of us don't come across marauding bears or man-eating sharks during our daily routines (maybe former classmates or coworkers we're dead-set on avoiding — which may be worse), many of us rely on sport for an epinephrine boost. Whether you're a participant or a spectator, sports may not only captivate individuals, but also enthrall entire nations. The Winter Olympics currently transpiring in Pyeongchang are the perfect distillation of this phenomenon — athletes competing against not only their own fears and expectations, but those of their countries. It's an adrenal avalanche; awareness elevated to its peak.
Life is much more meaningful when there is something at stake. 'Tis better to have luged and lost than to have never luged at all. Or in lieu of luge, whatever pursuit applies to you. In Erie, Pa., far north of Pyeongchang and certainly north of many of the world's kidney-holders, several locals accelerate their heart rates with methods outside the mainstream.
Some go to such extremes as to affix runners to the side of a boat and hurtle across ice at 100 miles per hour (see "Running Fast on Hard Water," wherein Mary Birdsong describes her first time iceboating on Presque Isle Bay). Others punch holes in that same ice with a fishing rod in hand, hoping to engage in interspecies tug-of-war (and capture it on camera — pro angler Dave Lefebre and sidekick Terry Olsen share the success of their one-of-a-kind fishing program in "Erie Extreme"). Then there are those who would prefer to stay indoors — that's okay, sometimes all you need to get your blood flowing is two rackets, a projectile, and a nimble opponent standing across the table (Matt Swanseger traces the history of ping-pong from Victorian England to the Erie Table Tennis Club in "Spin Is In").
Outside of the realm of sports and recreation, the quest for truth is a spark for some. Wendell Potter, a big pharma defector and founder of non-profit journalism startup Tarbell.org, is a prime example. City Council President Sonya Arrington is compelled to end racial profiling in our justice system — Dan Schank collects the latest findings on police body cameras. Racial conflict is far from a new development, of course — Jonathan Burdick delves into the complicated history of slavery in Pennsylvania.
Freedom can be an elusive concept, but don't let it elude you. Free yourselves from your afghan cocoons and get out there. Is it too extreme to say that hibernation is overrated?