July 18th, 2020
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” – John 15;13
Elliot asked me to go skydiving with him.
Elliot is one of my neighbors. He goes skydiving every year in August, on his birthday. Elliot’s dad started skydiving after his wife died. Elliot’s father passed away several years ago (not due to a skydiving accident), and Elliott has chosen to honor his dad’s memory by continuing to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.
Elliot asked me if I would like to go with him sometime. I told him that I would have to think about it. I am intrigued by the idea, and I have some experience with doing dangerous things (e.g. I was a helicopter pilot, I drove a BMW on the German Autobahn at 130 mph, I walked on top of glaciers, I rappelled off of cliffs, etc.). So, the prospect of leaping out of a plane has a certain perverse attraction.
In order to go with Elliot on this adventure, I would need to consult with my wife, Karin. I have not done so. I don’t ask questions when I already know the answer. Karin might agree to my desire to skydive, but she would do so with great reluctance. The whole notion would frighten her, and rightly so. I am not going to talk to Karin about it because it would be unfair to scare her just so I could have a momentary thrill. Why put her under a lot of stress to satisfy a whim?
Everything involves risk. There is no safe course. As somebody once told me, “Nobody gets off this planet alive.” The question is not whether you can avoid danger. You can’t. The question is: What risks do you take, and why?
Two days ago I walked down Oakwood Road, and I saw a number of squad cars near the railroad crossing. The cops had their lights flashing, and they were directing traffic in other directions. I kept walking until I was close to the train tracks. I saw a number of policemen taking pictures and measurements. That is never a good sign. I also saw a twisted bicycle laying on the pavement. That’s not good at all.
Somebody on a bike got nailed by a car while going over the narrow part of the railroad crossing. I am sure that the biker thought that he was being safe. Maybe the driver of the car thought the same thing. However, it wasn’t safe, and somebody got hurt really bad.
Last week I went for coffee with a friend from the Zen Center. Kevin was riding his bicycle on Lake Drive a couple months ago. He got t-boned by a car. Kevin had several broken ribs and a screwed up shoulder. He was feeling pretty good when we sat outside Colectivo Coffee House and sipped our drinks. As we sat, he made the comment,
“We’re sitting pretty close together here. This is kind of risky.”
Yeah, I guess so.
In this time of pandemic, the emphasis is on being safe. Everybody I meet tells me to be safe. So, what does that really mean?
I am not so much worried about myself getting sick from the COVID virus. I am worried about making other people sick, if I do get the disease. Any action that I take will involve other people. I have to keep thinking about what effect I may have on the health of others.
For instance, I want to do volunteer work. I go into poor areas of Milwaukee to distribute meals to families. Do I endanger them by going to their homes? Would they be worse off if I did not go to them? Am I actually helping these people?
Whatever I do has an impact on somebody somehow. I have to be aware that my life is not my own. I do not have absolute sovereignty over my body. Other people need me, and I need them.
I have to tell Elliot and that I am not going with him.