Thanks for your nice comments on my article, NordkappMan. Speaking of which, lad, I'm must say that I'm rather fond of me own Nordy, a 1984 HM.
After some forty odd years of kicking around, one way or another, in the great outdoors, I find myself captivated by this intersection of emotion and reason. For me, it's been kind of like that situation where you've never really taken notice of people driving a certain type of car, and then, you decide you're going to get one for yourself. Now you see them all over the place. That's kind of how it's been for me with the emotion / cognition interface. For the past ten years or so, the more I've delved, the more I've seen.
Just this past weekend, I went on the first of a series of distance training trips organized by our local 600 member sea kayaking club, the Chesapeake Paddlers Association. Before we even left the dock, I witnessed the Trip Leader in a tough wrestling match with that old tarbaby Judgement Call. He was faced with a tricky and ambiguous situation involving a very unexpected change in the weather forecast, some unknowns about individual skills within the group, and the conditions on a portion of the route we planned to take. Nothing about it was clear cut.
Some people, looking at the situation, would have considered his decision to have been a no-brainer. It wasn't. As I wrote afterward:
“if you wanted to test the acumen, experience, judgement, and safety-consciousness of a sea kayaking trip leader, you couldn't have asked for a better situation. It was more than just good, it was classic.”
Given the ambiguous circumstances, it would have been so easy for him to have rationalized going for it, and believe me, people make that mistake all the time, because the mental pressure to just go ahead with the plan – whatever it happens to be - is tremendous.
To his credit, he did what so many people are somehow unable to do when the moment arrives: He backed off of the planned outing, modified it, and then moved forward with a safer trip. All this took place under the pressure of time - at the put-in, no less. As he wrestled, more cars with kayaks on top were arriving every minute, and I watched in fascination as the whole process unfolded.
There's never anything easy or straightforward about the kind of judgment call he had to make. It doesn't matter what certifications you hold, or how much you've read, or how many courses you've taken, or years you've paddled, or what your level of experience happens to be - it's always really hard to back off.
I think this area of metaknowledge, which is growing more sophisticated with each passing year, applies to all outdoor activities, and, for that matter, to most indoor ones as well. The more I learn about it, the more amazed and fascinated I am.