Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh, It Amazes Me

I had a lovely, lovely week seeing my lovely, lovely friends and family in Los Angeles. As I was leaving the aeroport with my suitcase, it occurred to me that it would be very, very easy for someone to just walk in from the arrivals area, pick up a suitcase—say, mine—before I saw it, leave with said suitcase, and there's nothing that the aeroport staff, myself, or really anyone could do. I have, however, never once heard of this happening. I'm sure it has a couple of times, but I've spent a calculable percentage of my life in planes and the resulting aeroports, and I've never even heard such a story.

About a month and a half ago I took a train to Boston. It occurred to me then that it would be very easy for pretty much anyone to set up a bomb on a train, or bring a gun onto a train and hold every passenger up. I have heard of only two train bombings in my lifetime, and while I wish in no way to minimize the suffering of those who endured them, via personal experience or simply in their city, it's kind of stunning that, in the dangerous world I have long been taught exists, this hasn't happened on a fairly constant basis.

I don't think the world really is like we (at least, I) have been taught to think it is.

I know that many, from Lenore at Free-Range Kids to Barry Glassner, have considered this idea long before myself, and I don't really intend to treat it in-depth now. But I have been thinking lately about how foolish a credo is "never talk to strangers," how many errors we make in teaching that to children. "Don't go anywhere with a stranger" is perfectly reasonable, but if the flower girl at the wedding is asked a question by one of the bridesmaids at the wedding and feels the need to turn around and say, "Mommy, can I talk to her?" before answering, how can she possibly ask for help in a(n extremely statistically rare) dangerous situation? I don't like that we're building a culture (not to mention several elections) out of a lack of trust in the world. I've never loved a murder victim or a murderer, have never personally been a victim of, or even threatened with, serious physical and/or sexual violence, have rarely (to my knowledge) been in the presence of a loaded gun, have been robbed only twice in my life. In other words, I do understand that it's easy for me to say. But I would prefer to live in the world where I completely trust my beloved acroyogi friend to fly me and each of my family members and friends in turn, never wavering for a second in her strength, focus or joy. I would rather live in the world where the two days I spent hiking with two college friends, hearkening back to the days we spent hiking five years ago in South Africa except that we're all much more complex, compelling people now and have a much deeper history to our friendship, are fuckin' well worth twisting my ankle for.

There are horrible things in the world. I have no interest in denying that. There are also glorious, transcendent things and simply fascinating things. If we among the privileged (generally the folks reading blogs, certainly mine) could find it in ourselves to structure our lives more around the glorious, transcendent things and the fascinating things than the horrible things, even while acknowledging that all are present, I think it would have an impact on what the world is, and how it works. Beyond some vague definitions of karma, I don't know how yet, but I intend to keep thinking about it, and either way I am confident that it's true. Not to make this a campaign post, because it really isn't, but HOPE is not too shabby a message. Or promise.

In fact, I kind of feel like making that promise now. I promise to hope. There will be several incredibly politically negative posts forthcoming in the next six weeks. What with the near-constant barrage of news, there will be near-constant anxieties and frustrations and confusions and tons of unforeseen personal crises in my life and, by extension, the lives of my loved ones. That's how we roll. But I promise to hope, because I want to. That's the way I'd rather live my life; in fact, I think it's the only way I can, sustainably and completely, live my life.


At 12:50 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

if we really do believe that old saw that "kids live to maximize reward... adults to minimize risk"... then this is a bulwark against that torrent of growing up. congratulations.


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