The dance of safety and risk is integral to any human life. We all need safe harbors to which we can retreat: places, people, and activities where we can drop the effort to please the world or to achieve the dream. We need to feel safe in the world for our sanity and for the health of the body, mind, and soul.
But the human spirit also thrives on risk. We have incredible curiosity, a desire to know the world, and to experience novelty, sometimes leading us to take on extreme challenges. We are the only species that will not settle for the limits with which we come into the world. We dream impossible dreams, strive to achieve them, and work, for better of for worse, to shape the world in which we live.
Those who live under constant threat, such as in war zones or oppressed areas, often suffer incredible stress, which takes a toll on the body and dampens the spirit. We humans are odd creatures because we so often turn our world into war zones no matter what the circumstances. We hold our bodies hostage to hidden worries and, too often, live as if we are under house arrest. The feeling of safety eludes most of us even when we are in truly safe places.
We have all heard the risks of staying in a “comfort zone.” But the tendency to get into ruts in life is mislabeled when described as comfortable. It is better described as a “familiar zone.” Unfortunately, for most of us, safety means familiar and does not truly mean safe because we carry out threats inside. The Latin root for safe is salvus, which means “uninjured, intact and whole” and also means “in good health.” Safe zones are the places, people, and activities that restore us to ourselves, that make us whole again, and that enhance our health.
It is important to distinguish between the ruts that steal our spirits and the safety zones that restore our spirits. When the familiar becomes a trap, splitting us off from ourselves and stealing our spirit, it is a rut. Ruts are self-perpetuating and therein lies the danger. We get swept up in the momentum and years can go by without really living our lives. The familiar zone may actually be one of the most dangerous places because we become ghosts in our own life.
What restores us to ourselves and makes us whole often lies outside the familiar zone. In this sense, risk is necessary for true safety, We need to reach beyond where we are to both reclaim what we lost and to embrace more of who we are. This set of poems explores this dance between safety and risk as a spiral that widens the embrace for one’s self and one’s life.
This piece is an excerpt from my upcoming book, "The Work of Being Your Self," which is about navigating the five dynamic dilemmas in life, one of which is safety versus risk. To find more posts on this book, click The Work Of Being Yourself tag at the bottom of this post.
It's wise to have safe harbors, but it is unwise to live your whole life in them. Where are your safe harbors in life (who, what, or where do you feel "safe.") ?
What gets you to venture out into the unknown?
Please share your thoughts and comments below!
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