Random, Reflections

The subversiveness of ‘safe’

I was tidying up my Evernote today when I came across a note I made after watching this TED Talk by Aimee Mullins:

I re-watched the video, and she makes so many poignant and powerful points, but the one that stuck with me, the one that I Evernoted, was this one thing she said,

“I decided to find people who said yes.”

Most of us find ourselves trapped in the language and perspective in which we were first socialized. The well-intentioned adults in our earliest years say “no” in a bid to define safe boundaries for us as we explored our exciting environment – physical, linguistic, emotional, and social.

“No, don’t do that!”

“No, don’t say that!”

“No!”

“No!”

Little wonder that for many of us, the first word we learn is “no.”

And for many of us, “no” has been so internalized that we never outgrew it. We live always within boundaries that others have set for us, and if those are missing, we draw them in for ourselves, using the safe familiarity of our existing boundaries as a template.

Those boundaries kept us safe when we were vulnerable toddlers just beginning to explore the possibilities of life.

Safe from harm. Safe from the unknown and its incalculable and unimaginable risks and dangers.

These boundaries are a response to our basest and most primal sense of survival.

Safe from exhilaration.

Safe from the different.

Safe from our fullest potential.

In our pursuit of boundaries that keep us safe, we neglect to explore our own internal boundaries, to explore the full potential of what we could be.

We live in fear of injury, of death. My wise late grandma used to observe that some people have an over-developed sense of self-preservation – she called it “scared of dying.”

Some people are so precious with their own lives that they forget to live. And we enforce this Everlasting No on everyone around us. We’re not content to limit only ourselves but are compelled to limit others.

From an evolutionary perspective, that sense of those boundaries is our sense of self-preservation, a gift of Nature to ensure the survival of an organism. Yet, these very boundaries that were intended to preserve our lives are also the same things that keep us from living. Being alive and living are surely not the same thing.

A life that’s motivated by what’s safe is mere existence.

A life that’s motivated by exploration and what’s possible is surely more fulfilling.

 

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