Ok, so I’ve lived a pretty easy life for the most part. I can honestly say that my life wasn’t as dangerous as my parent’s lives and definitely not more dangerous than my grandparent’s lives. That being said, I have done some dangerous things. I grew up farming and ranching for the most part and that was *extremely* dangerous. I Spent 4 years in the military. I’ve jumped out of an airplane from 14,000 feet above the earth. I’ve driven non-stop for 23 hours where I could barely keep my eyes open and miraculously woke up on the side of the road. I’ve hiked to the top of a 7500’ mountain by myself without notifying anyone and had some pretty close calls. Actually, I’ve done a lot of very dangerous, risky things. And to top it all off, I worked for 30 years in one of the most dangerous occupations around: Mining. I’ve been at the top of what is called a highwall right at the very edge looking down 500 feet while drilling blast holes. I’ve worked right underneath the same highwall, looking up at rocks raining down on me at times wondering if it would be my last day on earth. Actually, looking back on my life, I’ve lived a risky, dangerous life in more ways than I at first thought.
Safety is always important in mining. There are weekly meetings about safety, and yearly a mandatory 8 to 10 hours of safety training. One would think I know more about safety than the average bear. And I do. One saying that is prominent between brothers and sisters in the mining industry is, “Be Safe!” And that’s a legitimate use of the phrase because each day, if one isn’t careful, it could absolutely be your last!
That sacred saying has been hijacked and, quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing it. I saw it on the high school marquis, I’ve heard it in the grocery store, I’ve heard it in the convenience store, I’ve seen it written between people online of all places! I mean, it’s flippin’ everywhere… and I’m sick of it. Telling someone to be safe when they are going on a long trip or embarking on a risky adventure makes perfect sense but now, what these people mean is, “Be safe from a scary, scary, scary, scary, SCARY “virus”, “germ” or any other unseen danger relating to illness. What the hell? Be safe from what? Something I can’t see? Some invisible bogey man that’s “out to get me” that may or may not even be real? And what can I do to “be safe?” Does that mean I should get an experimental injection, wear a mask, stay away from everything and everyone? In the minds of many using that sacred phrase, damn right it does.
I know some well-meaning ignorant people use that sacred phrase without realizing just how ridiculous it sounds. Life is inherently dangerous… period. It’s one thing to actually be able to *do* something that may keep us safe, but participating in some kind of weird ritual that feigns safety is something else entirely. Wearing a seatbelt may or may not keep you safe from being ejected from a vehicle if you have an accident. Wearing cut resistant gloves while using a sharp knife may keep you from chopping off a finger. Tying off a ladder when you are climbing up on your roof may keep you from falling and breaking your neck. Wearing a life vest while boating may keep you from drowning. But what do we do to “stay safe” from life itself?
Risk is, and should be, a choice. I didn’t have to jump out of an airplane. I didn’t have to join the military. I didn’t have to work in the mining industry for 30 years. I could have worn a giant diaper over my face for 3 years to pretend I was “safe”. I could have locked myself in my home for 3 years (even though, statistically, you are more prone to injure yourself or get killed at home than anywhere else) to “stay safe.” I could have sterilized everything in sight for the last 3 years, again, pretending that doing that was keeping me “safe”. I could have done a whole lot of things over my lifetime that may or may not have kept me “safe.” But what kind of life would that have been? The risks I’ve taken when it comes to my profession, my hobbies *and* my health have made me who I am today. I have some bumps, bruises, and aches & pains that remind me of the amazing life I’ve had. I’ve suffered from illness a few times, I’ve broken a bone or two, and I have a few scars. When I look in the mirror, I see some of the damage I’ve done to my body. But I also see something else when I look in the mirror; I see a life well lived. A life that has been fun and risky and scary and free. I look back on all of the things I’ve done that have been “scary” or “risky” with satisfaction. I can say, “I did that!”
If you are one of those out there telling everyone in sight to “stay safe.” STOP. I propose a new mantra: “Stay free!” No matter how well meaning it may seem to tell someone to be safe, all it does is remind them of how dangerous life is instead of reminding them of the satisfaction that comes from taking risks. I will still tell my brothers and sisters in the mining industry when I see them heading to work to “stay safe.” But for the average Joe on the street. Hell no. Live your life. Choose your risks. If I can assist you in some *real* methods to keep your body from harm while engaging in a project, hey, I’m there. But otherwise… Be free. Choose your risks. Live your life. And have fun doing it. Life is risky. Freedom is risky. Love is risky. Hell, *everything* is risky. And, as always, I’ll choose a risky free life over a fake “safe” life any day.
This week, practice staying free. It’s much safer being free than being a slave to a cult of fear and paranoia. And much more satisfying!
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