To Proceed In Peace

We are all vulnerable.

We are all at risk.

That has been the resounding sentiment that has reverberated around each corner of the world this week; and there is a pretty convincing argument to suggest that it is more than just a feeling, and that it’s actually a fact.

In the past week, we have been reminded that our personal safety is, to an alarming extent, beyond our own control.  You can keep good company, maintain decent health and be spiritually sound, but none of those things will necessarily protect you at a time of crisis.

It would be wrong and irrelevant to make assumptions about the lives of those who perished in Paris last week, but what we do know for certain is that they were people out doing what the majority of others do – dining at restaurants, drinking at bars, watching live music…simply being pedestrians in their home city, trying to get from A to B.

Any one of us could have been one of the 129 who were killed had we been in Paris last weekend, and we all know it.

We also know, that none of us are immune from suffering a similar plight in the future.

And it’s that feeling which is the one petrifying the world right now.  We fear that it’s incredibly unlikely that this most recent wave of terrorism will stop here.  In fact, a lot of us believe it’s probably only going to get worse before it shows any sign of getting better.  I am not normally one to be easily defeated but with the Mali massacre having taken place only a few days later, and Brussels being in a state of lock-down today, it’s very hard to find a trace of hope in the idea that the world is going to be given the chance to recuperate following what happened in Paris.

And so here we are at this current moment.  Nations all over the world living in a uniform state of fear, albeit of slightly different things.  What choice do we have?

Negative though it may sound; when you consider some of the biggest news headlines from the past few years, there is an overwhelming sense that absolutely nowhere is an hundred per cent safe anymore, and so maybe we should stop trying to find somewhere that is.  Yes, I am sounding depressing here, but the point of writing this article isn’t to depress anyone.  It’s to demonstrate why we simply cannot let this fear govern us, and how we need to step around it.

Last week, the morning after the shootings, I was on a markedly sparse train heading into London.  At this time of year you’re usually lucky if you can get a seat on these trains, so it was somewhat surprising to see so many available when I got on board.  It was quite evident that many of those who had perhaps planned a trip into the capital that day, had re-evaluated their plans upon seeing the news, and decided to stay at home instead, through fear of a sister attack.

These people changed their plans because they felt to do so would make them feel safer, but again this brings the question, where actually is safe?   Think of those headlines again: You’re not safe on a plane heading towards South East Asia.  You’re not safe in an Australian chocolate cafe, or on an island in a Norwegian lake.  You’re not safe in the skyscraper in which you work or on the train you take to get there, and your children aren’t even necessarily safe in school. All these events considered, it’s no surprise that to many people, going anywhere that constitutes public space feels like a risk, and so the only other option, which many people feel more inclined to take, is to simply stay at home whenever possible. Depressing as it sounds though, even our homes aren’t necessarily safe, as residents of Lockerbie, who saw neighbours’ homes destroyed and inhabitants killed by passengers falling from an exploded jumbo jet bound for New York in December 1988, may attest.   Simply put, terrorism can affect anyone, anywhere; and wherever you are in the world, even if you’re not at as much risk of terrorism necessarily, you’re probably at risk of other kinds of danger,including natural disaster or general violence.

So there we have concluded that nowhere is guaranteed to be safe.  And do you know what?  Maybe, in a peculiar way, that knowledge is what could actually make this whole thing much easier to deal with, because to some degree it removes the element of choice and deliberation out of the equation.  As with anything we might fear, the worrying and the trepidation itself doesn’t achieve or change anything, and sometimes, on those occasions when our fears do come to fruition, that can actually be the most peaceful point.  The problem is identified so the questions and circumspect cease and the reaction can begin.

If we consider that nowhere is safe then we maybe we should stop painstakingly trying to work out what we should and shouldn’t do, and where we should and shouldn’t go, in terms of the risk to ourselves.  To do so would only prove to be a source of frustration and irritation that as innocent people – who had no involvement in the cause of this carnage in the first place – we should have to for-go the things we really want to do in the places we want to visit. Maybe, instead of feeling foolish for ‘taking a risk’, we should commend ourselves for sticking to our original plans even in the wake of such disaster.  In fact, perhaps we should enjoy our original plans even more, high on the knowledge that we haven’t been defeated by the fear like some hoped we would be.

And so this, to be honest, is why I’m choosing not to worry or change my plans following what happened in Paris.  It’s not about being ignorant to the disaster, quite the opposite, it’s about not wanting those perpetrators to do any more damage than they already caused.  It’s about understanding that if we only did what we thought was safe in life, we wouldn’t do anything beyond maybe stay tucked up at home reading books about adventures we only wish we could allow ourselves to have.

Despite everything that has happened not only recently but frequently throughout the years, live on as you would and do the things you enjoy, because life is much too short not to, and certainly so if you are refraining from doing so on the basis of fear.  We all know life can be cruel and ugly at times, so grab any opportunity to have fun, and see the best of it.  Go to wherever you want to go to, follow the things that fill you with purpose, and take those risks for which the desired outcome strongly appeals to you, because that way, whatever happens to you, you can still say you did the best with what you had and made the most out of life.  That’s really all that matters.

All those innocent people from all over the world – not just Paris – who have been killed as a consequence of what is basically just somebody else’s irritation with something else, need to be considered at all times.  We owe it to them to ‘fight back’ with peace, love and the willing to focus on only the good in a world which often feels so besieged with evil.

It’s our only choice.

Song of the Day: Jewel – Life Uncommon

“…And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom.  No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.  Fill your lives with love and bravery and you shall lead a life uncommon…”

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