I was at the science museum with my son a few days ago when I heard about the shooting in San Bernardino. 14 dead, many more wounded. This comes on the heels of last week’s shootings in Colorado Springs and last month’s devastating massacre in Paris.
It’s not even a surprise anymore.
These events are starting to run together for me. Sure, some stand out as being especially unique – the enormity and political implications of 9/11, the shock of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the mass slaughter of children in Newtown, the attack on the black church in South Carolina. And the ones that have happened right here in my adopted home state – Columbine, Aurora, Planned Parenthood – I can’t forget those either.
But the fact that so many others are now indistinguishable in my brain? It’s horrifying. And even more horrifying is that this feels like the new normal.
It is a goddam dangerous world out there, you guys.
But I’m not here to talk to you about terrorism or gun violence or how to stay safe – because I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. I’m here to talk to you about fear – and about living a full life in the face of it. And about how maybe these events can give us courage rather than make us afraid.
If you’re wondering who the hell I am to talk about being scared, let me assure you that fear and I are well acquainted.
I have nightmares about the people I love dying in car accidents and worry that a lifetime spent in the sun will end in melanoma. I have a very real, very irrational, and occasionally very debilitating phobia of vomiting. School shootings scare the hell out of me. I think of the “what if’s” every time I get on my road bike.
So yeah, I’m scared. But I’m not letting that stop me.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
I’m probably not alone when I say that these events – these senseless acts of violence – make me want to curl up into a ball on the couch with my family. If your initial reaction to these horrible acts is to want to hide under the covers forever, I can’t say that I blame you. It seems like the only way to live a safe life in a dangerous world is to stop living life entirely. But locking yourself in your home is obviously not the answer.
So I ask you all to look at this a different way. I challenge you to realize that nothing is truly safe and to embrace the uncertainty. I want you to find courage in it. I want you to practice situational awareness and know what to do if the unthinkable happens. And then? Then I want you to realize that whether you live or die is still a massive roll of the dice. And that there’s no point in being afraid.
Helen Keller famously said that “security is mostly a superstition” and never has that seemed more true than today. None of us know when our time will be up or when an innocent trip to a mall or movie theater could end it all. So don’t live in fear. I’m not suggesting that we should act recklessly or put ourselves in risky situations. I’m saying that life is a risky situation. So, go. Live your life. Do your thing. Adventure, travel, explore. Look out for each other. Love each other. Not in spite of the fact that it’s a dangerous world but because it is.