Stand back, people: I’m about to use philosophy.
Not the kind with ancient people spouting wisdom. This is my own personal brand of philosophy, in which I spout out random opinions about life. You are free to disagree, of course, and spend time with real philosophers. They’ve been known to inhabit ancient Greece, present-day academia, and coffee shops.
The Safety Myth
Anyway, there seems to be this idea running around (naked, no less!) that there is a way to be “safe.” I don’t mean physically safe. Usually, if we’re lucky, we find a way to do that. We may have to grow up, or get out of a war zone (which are sometimes the same thing), but it can be done.
I mean safe in an existential sense. That somehow, if we said/did all the right things (or held back from doing other things) we’d never feel pain or discomfort. Or embarrassment. Or failure. In other words, life would be perfect. If your life isn’t perfect, then it’s obvious your lack of caution is to blame.
Got fired? Should’ve read the boss’s mind. Husband left you? Should’ve seen it coming. Kid’s a mess? Clearly, it was something you ate or drank during pregnancy (not including alcohol or stuffs illegals).
To paraphrase a Harry Potter character (and take the line completely out of context):
“This. Is. A. Lie!”
There is no way to be forever safe in an intellectual/emotional sense. Sometimes, it’s not even possible in a physical sense. You can say/do/avoid all the “right” things and events still turn out badly. While this isn’t license to go seatbeltless down the freeway at 90 mph into oncoming traffic, it is license not to beat yourself crapless when crap happens.
And yes, this holds true no matter what others–what they–may say. They want you to stay small and fake-safe. They don’t want you to do anything they’re not doing–like taking risks. They also don’t want to admit the enormous role played by fate, genes, and happenstance. They don’t want to think about how powerless they can be against these forces, battering them like flotsam and jetsam against an unyielding shore.
Tell them to kindly stuff it. “Not all who encounter badness had it coming. You can play it safe, play it small, and the bad stuff will still come for you. Except that you won’t be able to fight it. Instead, you’ll run around, wring your hands, and wonder how you could have prevented the badness.
But what if you’d predicted that, at some point, badness would come calling no matter what? You’d be prepared, of course! You’d already have a baseball bat in the closet to kick badness’s butt. Mine has spikes on it.
How to demolish the Safety Myth
So, throw some clothes on that naked idea You know—the one that says you’ll be safe if only you worry and fret every moment about safety. Give it a T-shirt emblazoned with the letters I AM A BIG FAT LIAR. Maybe if enough people see it dressed like that, we’ll stop believing.
And baseball bats will be sold out in every sporting goods store in the world.
But what are your personal experiences with safety versus risk? What are the chances you took that you are glad about? Sorry for? Feel free to comment!
P.S. Bonus poem (by Christina Henry, not me).
(Top image by michaelstyne)