The other day I found myself in a conversation with a 25 year old man who I feel confident you would describe as being ‘normal.’ Raised as a child, went to school, now in the workforce. Pays rent, has a licence, and a relationship.
A front page news story about cellphone addictions sparked a conversation about phone use. What struck me most about that conversation didn’t really have anything to do with his claims about whether or not he was addicted. It was more about how he described what it felt like to not have his phone.
Those who read me often will know I sometimes refer to shunting. My accident causes me to notice these odd patterns and when I’ve seen one enough times to be confident it’s a pattern, it becomes conscious to me for the first time as a realization that feels like something specific has clicked into place.
I do get sensations prior to that too, but they’re more vague. Like the inklings a writer feels as a story gradually congeals. But the shunt is when I know. And when that kid talked about not having his phone, I remembered a shunt I had one day over a decade ago.
An extremely competent and intelligent woman I worked with was describing where her children were allowed to play —which was essentially within her eyesight. I was actually quite startled to learn that, and I could make no sense of why, so I asked. She seemed just as startled by my need to ask.
To her it was obvious —and I do think most of the people listening to us agreed with her, not me. But in her view, the kids needed to be within eyesight in case ‘something bad’ happens. That’s what the kid said about his phone. He said he didn’t need to use it. He just liked to have it with him in case ‘something bad’ happens.
Again, as is often the case, I’m the odd man out. I need to ask, why would we assume something bad would happen? Her argument that day was good: because if I’m wrong and things aren’t okay, then a child could end up dead. I could agree with that. The stakes are very high. But going both directions I would argue.
To live in fear of every bad thing that might happen is to not live at all. So we have to stop and truly reassess how likely some of our fears are. Because the media makes its living off of fomenting fears. And the agencies that protect kids remind us of our fears as a part of their campaigns and fundraisers. There’s a lot of people that impart fear for a living. But we can’t mistake those efforts for kids being in actual danger.
A kid getting grabbed by a feuding spouse —sure, that happens a lot and protections are smart. But the actual kidnapping of any kid by a stranger generally makes international news. They’re that rare. And we’re talking over hundreds of millions of people. We’re quite literally below lightning-strike numbers.
Do we avoid going to movies or out to play because we’re afraid of lightning? Then why is everyone hiding their kids away like every second neighbour is dangerous when it’s far more likely that our neighbours would risk themselves to rescue our children?
The problem is, we watch too much TV. We listen to too many fearful messages through advertising. They tell us which diseases to be afraid of, which smells from which parts of the body we should recoil from. They warn us not to be unfashionable. And we don’t want to be caught listening to the wrong music or we’ll be teased.
Too often, almost every decision is dictated by what we don’t want to see happen rather than what we do want to see happen. They’re all defensive decisions made in case something goes wrong. This is a form of craziness. Prudence is wise. Overriding fear is debilitating.
The world is an amazing super-fantabulous place. We can hike through the jungles and get bit by a spider and we can be unnerved by natives or frightened by a snake. We can climb a mountain and parachute down. We can swim in large schools of mammals and fish. We can watch bears fish for salmon.
We can learn to dance, or learn how to play an instrument. You can read books and travel to places in our imagination. We can interact with humanity. Because despite our entirely irrational fears about many others, they are almost universally awesome, and very much worth getting to know. Just like we are.
I never cease to find everyone I meet to be amazing and interesting in their own way. But I’m not looking out at life worried about what bad things might happen. Secret’s out: some of those are gonna happen whether we watch for them or not. But the really great stuff? That we only get a few times, by chance.
Still, if we’re watching —if we’re keeping our eye out for cool, rewarding, exciting stuff— then we’ll find a lot of it. More than we’ll ever be able to process in one lifetime. Which is why many of the world’s religions feel we will in some way, choose to come back, and to live another life with just as many bumps and grinds as this one. Because the really wise being inside us knows it’s worth it, every time.
This is a life we have. It’s a fantastic opportunity every single day. It’s really not that hard to make it amazing. We just have to start with a little courage. So here’s a ((hug)) to start you off. Now go gettem’. 😉
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.