“Life is Dangerous” By Gordon Kubanek, CACOR Board of Directors.
Could it be that trying to make our lives too safe is actually dangerous?
Nobody gets out of here alive
Jim Morrison, The Doors
Right now I am in the Ottawa Heart Institute awaiting surgery for a new advanced pacemaker. You see 15 years ago I moved to the country to live life as a ‘gentleman farmer’, to be safe from the stresses of the big city. Instead of being safe I was somehow exposed to a virus that gave me cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure. I may soon be on the heart transplant list.
A good friend of my wife was at home, thinking she was safe as she casually walked down the stairs. Little did she know that her young son had left a toy car on the stairs.
Yes, she stepped on the car. Yes, she slipped and fell with great force on her spine. Yes, she hurt herself so badly that it never really healed and she has had back pain for the rest of her life.
My wife was at work 2 months ago and put her bag down on her office floor as she searched through her filing cabinet. Unfortunately, she did not put her bag off to the side as per normal but rather in the middle of the floor. She stepped backwards. She fell holding out her arms behind her to break the fall. Yes, she broke her right wrist that she writes with. Yes, it was fractured so badly that she need a steel plate put in. Yes, it took months of physio (as I write she is coming from a physio session) to heal.
So much for being safe.
In each of cases described above it was the illusion that the person felt safe which made them not notice or realize that life always has an element of danger. As soon as you stop paying attention – BANG! – something unfortunate is bound to happen. I am sure you can think of examples similar to those I have described above – and worse.
The most dangerous mistake in life is thinking you are safe.
However, realistically, we would all have nervous breakdowns or worse if we did not have times when we felt safe. Here is a metaphor I like: life is a battle that you have to fight every day but after the battle you need a castle to return to – a safe haven to heal, to reflect, to gather your strength. The trick to not putting yourself in situations that you think are safe but are actually dangerous is to recognize when you are on the battlefield and when you are in your safe castle.
At the personal level I think my silly examples have made my point. However, there is a bigger story at play here which plays out at a societal level. It is this: our reluctance to change because we think of change as dangerous and remaining as we are is safe – because it is known. In today’s world I believe it is just the opposite – change is safety and the known is our enemy that has ensnared us in the trap – the delusion – that because what we did worked in the past it will work in the future.
There are many, many lessons from history that make this point.
The most cited and obvious example was the French army’s reliance on the Maginot line in WWII – their inability to change their military thinking led to the biggest defeat in the history of France.
Today the changed demanded of us not only by our destruction of our environment – and I want to note that this goes way beyond climate change – but also of our socio-cultural-political environment is being seen by most people as a threat, rather than the opportunity it is. Thus, they react to it by supporting reactionary populists who will bring back “big coal” as they ridicule Greta Thunberg who they see as a silly teenager who has no idea ‘how the real world works’ when, in fact, it is they who are out of touch – out of touch because they see change as danger and keeping things as they are as safe. Poor them.
Because they are our neighbours and often our political ‘leaders’ [I use that term lightly because I, like many, see them more as followers].
Because they are being traumatized by seeing the world they knew unravel.
This makes them, understandably, afraid.
It makes them see solar farms as a threat.
It has them see the end of suburbia as a catastrophe.
It has Albertans see the end of the Oil Sands as the end of the World.
It has voters, even around Ottawa, chanting: “Pipelines! Pipelines! Pipelines!”
It has frozen Canadians like deer in a headlights so that they only see that anybody who does not agree with them must not only be wrong, but evil.
It means we will all suffer from the mistaken thinking that life can be safe.
Life is never safe.
Only when you can embrace the danger out there in the jungle we call our cities do we have chance of being safe.
From the demons of our creation.
From the demons of our own minds, hearts and souls.
From the climate crises.
From the 6th mass extinction.
From our mental health crises.
From the 212 chemicals the FDA has found in the blood of the average American.
From the autism, asthma, allergy, and learning disabilities epidemic among our children.
From the income inequality rocking governments from Chile to Lebanon.
From the despair experienced by environmental activists and scientists who have tried help us change – and feel they have failed.
From young couples choosing not to bring children into a world on the brink of catastrophe.
Nothing is fixed in stone.
The stars do not decide our fate.
All I, and you, and your brother and sister and neighbour and friends have to do is accept that life is dangerous.
Beginning with the realization that the most dangerous choice is to not make a choice – but to ‘go with the flow’ and ‘be normal’.
My task and your task is this:
To be abnormal.
To go against the flow.
To embrace change.
To live differently.
Talk with your friends and family differently.
Not as voice of doom.
Not as a herald of death and despair.
But rather as a voice, made visible you how live and act, that right now we have the opportunity of a lifetime to choose safety – by rushing into the battlefield of change and supporting any change to how consume, eat, travel, interact with others – by becoming unstuck from ‘the real world’ – which is dying – and choosing the ‘world that is becoming’ – that ‘unreal’ world which is being born.
And if you fall on the battlefield, so be it – because as Jim Morrison said:
Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive
By Gordon Kubanek, P.Eng. Society of Saint Francis [TSSF]
While in the Heart Institute recovering from surgery.