Vision: Via Negativa – Living on the Edge by Howard Hanger

September 13, 2018 |

“If you’re not living on the edge,” goes the T-Shirt wisdom, “you’re taking up too much room.” But then again, people living on the edge can get pretty edgy. Some might be a bit rough around the edges and others have a slight edge on everyone else, which can put everyone on edge. For some, living on the edge gives them an edge with the competition; and for others, living on the edge can put you on the edge of disaster.  Suffice it to say, living on the edge can be a double-edged sword.

Let’s take a little quiz. Give yourself a score of 1 for every question you answer “Yes.”

Have you ever lived on the financial edge?

Have you ever spent any time on the edge in a relationship?

Ever been on the edge with your job? (See # 1)

On the edge with a family member?



Health wise?

So, add up your score. If you have five or more, welcome to the party. If you scored 1 or less, Xanax is working well for you or you need to write a self-help book. Living on the edge can keep you up at night and bump up your alcohol tab. Living on the edge can trigger your fear gene and have you chatting with weird people like ministers and therapists and yoga teachers.

But interestingly enough, there are some folks who thrive in living on the edge. Enter the risk-takers: The entrepreneurs, sky-divers, bungee jumpers, Andes climbers, motorcycle racers, anyone who’s ever quit her job and sold her car to form a start-up. Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Gazillionaire FaceBook Founder says, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” In other words, the best way to fail is not living on the edge.

The difference between you with a score of 7 and Mr. Zuckerberg with a score of 7 billion, of course, is that he chose the edge. And you were dragged there kicking and screaming. But what if you’re both in the same boat, notwithstanding the bank account balances, but what if living on the edge might actually offer both of you a benefit? Might be less of a detriment and possibly even give you an edge, so to speak?

Living on the edge – wherever that edge might be – gets you off of your butt and into the game. Out of your Lazy Boy and back to your gig.  Living on the edge demands creativity. It reminds you that life can be iffy and being fully alive necessitates imagination. Living on the edge jolts you out of your comfortable inaction into a world of new possibilities. You might even discover some new tools in your bag of tricks that you never knew were there.

That being said, living on the edge can offer some of the darkest times for anyone. If you’re about to lose your home or your spouse or a loved one or your own life, and you have no idea which way things will go, it can flip your anxiety into overdrive and pump your blood pressure into the danger zone. Living on the edge can bring you face-to-face with the Via Negativa. Your Via Negativa. And that can be terrifying. And knowing that everyone – make that EVERYONE – hits the edge sooner or later in this life, makes a fine case for practicing a little kindness. Every. Single. Day.

Nor should you leave that kindness only at the door of others. A little self-care is never a bad idea. So, the next time you feel yourself slip-sliding away to the edge, maybe sip a little wine as you slip into that hot bath and remind yourself that, no matter what, you’re at least not taking up too much room.