safety

Passion is the Woods

Hurricane Mountain, Adirondacks, August 7, 2011

Excerpt from Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins:‎

Would you complain because a beautiful sunset doesn’t have a future or a shooting star a payoff? And why should romance "lead anywhere"? Passion isn’t a path through the woods. Passion is the woods. It’s the deepest wildest part of the forest; the grove where the fairies still dance and obscene old vipers snooze in the boughs. Everybody but the most dried up and dysfunctional is drawn to the grove and enchanted by its mysteries, but then they just can’t wait to call in the chain saws and bulldozers and replace it with a family-style restaurant or a new S and L. That’s the payoff, I guess. Safety. Security. Certainty. Yes, indeed. Well, remember this: we’re not involved in a ‘relationship’, you and I, we’re involved in a collision. Collisions don’t much lend themselves to secure futures, but the act of colliding is hard to beat for interest.

The Midlife Unraveling

Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Excerpt from "Brené Brown on Vulnerability," On Being, November 21, 2012:

Krista Tippett: I also see an upside of aging. When I see people aging badly in a sad way, it seems to me that the common denominator is they have not faced their demons and they just get smaller. It's like they just get eaten alive from the inside. And that's about being vulnerable and, you know, claiming what's gone wrong and the imperfection. But there's a way in which getting older, especially kind of getting into your 40s, you know, it kind of pushes you to finally do this if you haven't done it. You know, that's in your story. I just wonder if you think that, you know, this is something we can lean into almost as a gift.

Brené Brown: I think what you're describing is what I have found as a very critical developmental milestone for us. Some people call it the midlife crisis. I call it the midlife unraveling. I think there is a place and time in our lives where we realize that growing up — when we felt pain, when we felt small, when we felt unseen — we constructed walls and moats and we protected ourselves and we shut down parts of ourselves. Then I think this happens in midlife where we realize, oh, God, to be the person we want to be, to be the partner, to be the parent, we have to take down everything we put up that was supposed to be keeping us safe.

Let Us Ride This Wave

Keep Us
Peter Bradley Adams 

When the rain set in we had nowhere left to go
so we just stayed in bed while the thunder rolled
there's a comfort in the rain, one that lovers only know
so we lay hand in hand while the water rose. 

Every season will turn til the world is upside down
rivers overflow then go underground
but in the eye of the storm, in the safety of this house
we lay hand in hand while the world turns wrong.

So keep us and keep us, keep us from the storm.

There's a lesson in the rain that change will always come
let us ride this wave and then greet the sun
and though the ground may shake and we’ll think
we’ve had enough
we must raise our flags for the ones we love.

So keep us and keep us, keep us from the storm.
Keep us and keep us and keep us from the storm.

The Ego Will Be Asked to Open to Something Larger

"The ego wishes comfort, security, satiety; the soul demands meaning, struggle, becoming. The contention of these two voices sometimes tears us apart. Ordinary ego consciousness is crucified by these polarities. Again, the paradox emerges that in our suffering, in our symptoms, are profound clues as to the meaning of the struggle, yet the path of healing is very difficult for the apprehensive ego to accept, for the ego will be asked to be open to something larger than itself."

~ James Hollis, from Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up

Feeling Secure

“We respond to the feeling of security and not the reality. Most of the time that works…So it’s important for us, those of us who design security, who look at security policy, or even look at public policy in ways affect security [to realize that] it’s not just reality it’s feeling and reality. What’s important is that they be about the same. If our feelings match reality we make better security trade-offs.”

~ Bruce Schneier

Common cognitive biases related to risk perception:

  • We tend to exaggerate spectacular and rare risks and downplay common risks
  • The unknown is perceived to be riskier than the familiar
  • Personified risks are perceived to be greater than anonymous risks
  • People underestimate risks in situations they do control and overestimate them in situations they don’t control
  • We estimate the probability of something by how easy it is to bring instances of it to mind [availability heuristic]
  • We respond to stories more than data

Books by Bruce Schneier:

Room for Both the Wind and the Lion

From “Mass Animal Deaths: An Environmental Whodunit,” by James Gorman, New York Times, Jan. 9, 2011:

Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and a Scientific American columnist …uses a common scenario to explain why we believe in things that may not be there — hominids on the savannah hearing a rustling in the tall grass.  The one who thinks, “It’s a lion!” and escapes quickly survives to propagate her genes, thus fostering a kind of protective alarmism in her descendants. Another might think, “There’s always some kind of rustling in the tall grass, it’s probably the wind,” and keep on grooming. If he guesses wrong, the downside is being eaten by the lion. Thus, no offspring and no propagation of the “don’t worry, be happy” genes.

Of course, people have both modes of thought, perhaps because rustling is usually caused by the wind, and the hominid who is too alarmist is always running away from nothing and probably too exhausted and too anxiety-ridden to mate. So there’s room for both the wind and the lion in human minds.

Read the rest of this essay…

Our Dream of Safety Has to Disappear

George Tooker, Cornice, (circa 1949). Egg tempera on gesso panel 24 x 15 inches.

Leap Before You Look
by W.H. Auden 

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.