- - Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Culture challenge of the week: Choosing adventure or safety

Throughout history, pioneers have left the warmth of home to light upon untamed lands. Explorers have ventured into the deep of the sea and the dark of the sky. Adventurers have crossed oceans and deserts, mountains and chasms.

Danger appeals to us.

As children, we dream of becoming heroes of a wild breed — mountain climbers and lion tamers — because we want to be brave.

But there are many good men and women we admire who work diligently in humbler jobs to provide security and peace for the ones they love. As young adults, most of us opt to become one of those tamer heroes — the well-respected professionals — because we find value in dependability.

Safety also appeals to us.

Perhaps danger is a reckless lust indulged only by the irresponsible. Or perhaps it is an important part of our nature that is too often suppressed, only to be lived vicariously through late-night TV dramas.

Or maybe life is a little more complex, a little more mysterious than that. Danger and safety, adventure and stability are desires often at odds with one another. We feel that we have to choose each moment between what is adventurous and what is safe. But rather than choosing one over the other, there is a way to view the two as a paradox.

One of my favorite quotations from G.K Chesterton illustrates the type of relationship I am referring to:

“If our life is ever to really be as beautiful as a fairy tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy-tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which stops just short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also, if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder and haughty enough to defy.

“So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt. It must be one particular proportion of the two — which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good or happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance — like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.”

Faith and doubt would seem to be in opposition, yet they depend upon one another to make the story compelling. In the same way, adventure and safety make each other more appealing, more marvelous, when they join together in a very particular combination.

How to save your family: Search for balance

Would you believe me if I told you that the most dangerous thing you could do in this life is also the safest? The most foolish thing you could do is also the wisest? And the most sacrificial thing you could do would give you the greatest reward?

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