Safety

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We all yearn for safety and security to some extent or another.  We want the security of a regular paycheck that will meet our financial needs; we want the safety of a nice home that will keep us warm in the winter and safe from the elements and the bad people of the world.  We want our children to be safe and sound, and we want to protect them from anything that may harm them.  There's nothing wrong with safety per se:  it's a typical human trait to want it, and when we are safe, we're free to focus our energies on other aspects of our lives.  We're able to give more to our jobs and more time to activities that we enjoy.  So how can something as basic as safety turn into an obstacle to living a full life?

That's easy and obvious--when safety develops into complacency and creates in us a sense of boredom, that's when we're facing a struggle with the very facet of our lives that we've strived so hard to achieve.

In my experiences living in Europe and the United States, I've noticed time and again that in the United States we take far more risks and we face far more obstacles than do our neighbors to the east, especially in the western European countries.  But we also offer far more opportunities for risk-taking, for putting aside our personal safety and comfort in order to strike out and try something new and different, whereas the European countries have such strong social programs that few people ever reach a point at which they have to strike out and try something new.  

That's the basic reason why in Germany, you'll hear mostly American and British music on the charts, why in Switzerland and Spain you'll see so many McDonald's and Burger Kings, why in France and Sweden you'll see so many American films in the theaters.  For better or worse, here in America we offer the opportunity to succeed to the risk-takers, and it pays off in a culture that continues to be dynamic and ever-changing.

How many times have you read the story of the man or woman who had worked in the same place for twenty years, only to be laid off when the company is sold out or goes under?  For many of these people, this is the best thing that ever happened to them:  their new-found lack of security stimulated them to create their own jobs or companies, or to find higher-paying jobs in related fields with much higher job satisfaction.  While they were safely entrenched in their old jobs, they had no motivation at all to stretch their limits or further their boundaries, but once they were on their own, they found that their creativity and resourcefulness were put to the test, and came through.

For others, such a change is a disaster, which is a shame, but hardly justifiable in the world of today.  We can't sit around and mope about what has been; we need to forge our tomorrows out of the raw materials of today.

I've taught at many different colleges, and one of them stands out in my mind as epitomizing the problem with safety.  It's a wonderful school academically--consistently ranked very highly in national and regional rankings--but there's very little life there.  While they bring in many outside artists to perform there, there's very little creativity on the campus among the students.  Art and dance and music and other creative outlets are there, but they're hardly encouraged, except by those few faculty members who are involved in them.  When I talked to my students, they complained about the lack of life on campus, and most of them ended up going home on weekends, for there was nothing to do at school.  I heard several references to the campus as a "giant womb," a place where parents could send their kids and know that they were safe and weren't going to be subverted.

At other colleges, though, I haven't seen that degree of safety, and I've seen a great deal more creativity and fire and will to succeed in the students.  They have to work towards safety, and their work shows an inspiration that I rarely saw at the other school.  They knew that opportunities were out there, but they knew they'd have to work to reach them.  At the other school, the parents were paying a hefty tuition to guarantee their kids success and a degree from a highly regarded school, but the kids were getting nothing more than a safety guaranteed by a checkbook.  They were learning no survival skills, and they were pushed to no limits other than turning in papers on time and getting their reading done and performing well on tests.

I know that the times in my life when I've struggled have been the most creative and the most beneficial.  I wrote more poetry when I was living on $200 a month in Spain than I ever have when I've been earning a decent paycheck and living in a nice home.  I've been harmed when I've taken risks--of course.  But in that harm has been a wonderful lesson or two each time, and I learned a little bit more about life and success and being happy by taking a risk and failing than I ever would have by continuing with the status quo.

There's nothing inherently wrong with safety, and it's a wonderful goal for most of us, but we shouldn't let safety turn us into complacent beings, bored people who think we have to find excitement in things like drugs or alcohol or partners other than their spouses.  You can keep your life dynamic if you search out risks worth taking, changes worth making, new challenges worth facing.

   

  

The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.

Tacitus

  
 
Don't play for safety.  It's the most dangerous thing in the world.

Hugh Walpole
   

Cautious lest we let our hopes soar, only later to see some dashed;
bruised because we have been hurt; and realistic because of past
setbacks, we quite naturally may be guarded in our emotions.

Then a voice from within us may say, "Be careful about being
exuberant, about laughing.  If you dance, shuffle; don't leap.  If
you make music, be muted.  Be careful about your pace; you
might stumble.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Being joyful is risky
business."

Then a voice from without us will say, "Let go.  Let your spirit be
released.  Sing confidently.  Grow flowers and smell and pick and
give some.  Spin the wheel blithely as your shape a vase.  Create
delicate traceries and be joyful, joyful."

Not only do we cheat ourselves and those around us if we are only
glum or always wary when it comes time to respond to divine stirrings.
No, we are the also being simply unfaithful to the surrounding reality.
The one who purges gloom has given occasions and reasons,
in the midst of life's sadness, to be joyful.

Martin Marty
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Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of people as a whole experience it. . . .
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright
exposure. . . . Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Helen Keller

 

Monotony is the awful reward of the careful.

A.G. Buckham

The way to be safe is never to be secure.

Benjamin Franklin

A ship in harbor is safe,
but that is not what ships are built for.

John Shedd

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

African proverb

 

Life is certainly only worthwhile as it represents struggle for
worthy causes.  There is no struggle in perfect security.  I am
quite certain that the human being could not continue
to exist if he or she had perfect security.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

  
Prudence keeps life safe, but does not often make it happy.

Samuel Johnson
  

Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough,
is true security to be found.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

  
   

There's only one form of security we can attain during our
lives.  It's inner security--the kind that comes from courage,
experience, and the ability and the willingness to learn,
to grow, to attempt the unknown.  Security isn't what the
wise person looks for; it's opportunity.  And once
we begin looking for that, we find it on every side.
You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that
measures the risk involved.  They go together.


Earl Nightingale

   

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risk

Your life can be transformed like the butterfly's.  Most of us live in a
cocoon of safety, called our comfort zone, to protect ourselves from
the elements.  We are accustomed to the routine of our lives.  We know
what to expect each day as we crawl out from under our warm covers.

Our comfort zone keeps us safe.  But our comfort zone limits us, just as
the caterpillar is limited when compared to the butterfly.  To the
caterpillar, life is fine.  There are branches to climb.  There are leaves
to eat.  It can even use the leaves to hide from the birds of prey.

But to the observer who can see the whole picture, the reality of the
caterpillar's life is very limited.  That observer can see the possibilities
of transformation that lie ahead for the caterpillar.  That observer can
also see the possibilities of transformation that can lie ahead for you.

Our comfort zone limits us in the same way the caterpillar is limited.
The vision of the caterpillar is limited to a few feet around it.  It cannot
even imagine a life beyond its vision.  But the caterpillar is lucky.  Nature
has provided a path that will transform it into a butterfly with a hugely
expanded vision.  It doesn't have a choice.

Russ Stiffler

   

All of us have "comfort zones," the areas in which we are comfortable. 
These comfort zones apply to the way we dress, the emotions we can
comfortably express, the things which we will try, the depths to which
we reveal ourselves, our openness to change, and so forth.

As long as we stay within these comfort zones, we just keep repeating
what we have always done.  We don't change.  We don't grow.  Every day
is pretty much like the day before, and every tomorrow is pretty much
like today.  Our days are all "carbon copies" of one another.

We like our comfort zones, even though they definitely shrink the world
in which we live.  We know our way around inside our comfort zones.  We
know how to cope with the things we encounter in our familiar
comfort zones.  We feel "safe" there.

If you promise me that you are going to stay within your comfort zone,
I will be able to tell you what you will be like at the end of your life.
You'll be just what you are now, only more so.

If you promise me that you are going to stretch, to step outside your
comfort zone, I cannot predict your future.  The sky is the limit.

John Powell

    

Civilized people have exchanged some part of their
chances of happiness for a measure of security.

Sigmund Freud

   



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Henry Ford
  

   

  

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