No Safety Guarantees

After the police arrested the Marathon Bomber in Boston, one of the students interviewed said, “Now we can go back to our life. We don’t have to be scared anymore. There is nothing to fear.” He’s so very wrong. The idea that two panic_disorderbombers caught make the problem go away is a false one. And every time a terrorist attack occurs, we (understandably) want it to be over so we can have our lives back. Go back to what we were doing before we had to think about dying. But that isn’t real, and our lives have changed forever already. There is no going back. There is no closure. People died. People had their legs blown off.

And still, there is a huge difference between living IN fear and living WITH fear. When we live with fear, we understand the world around us is unsteady and not in our control. We promote kindness, compassion and understanding because that is what we can do at the individual level. We understand that death is not within our control, and that someday we, our family and friends will die–maybe of old age, maybe of disease, maybe because a terrorist bomb found us.

Fear, from

Fear, from

When we live in fear, we become suspicious, angry and controlling. We trade essential freedoms for the hope of safety, and wind up with missing freedoms and no guarantee of safety.  We refuse to think about death as anything except a cruel cheat, and something that happens to others. And we lose our creativity.

Fear is the big scourge of creativity. Fear robs us of flexibility, agility, choices, and the glory of uncertainty. When we live in fear, uncertainty is the enemy (along with almost everything else.) Instead of spending time in creative thinking, we spend time in isolation, developing rationalizations for “them” and “us” thinking. Anything different, unusual, or non-conforming is suspicious, maybe even dangerous.

The very root of creativity is in different, risky, and strange. There are many countries whose citizens have had to adapt to war–Somalia, the Sudan, Mali, Palestine, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan–all have innocent citizens whose lives are directed by war they don’t want, and don’t agree with. But yet, there they are, in the middle of a war, still trying to feed the family and provide a normal life for their children.

Creativity is both exciting and calming, involved in giving up and expanding anew. But let fear in the studio, and it vanishes. Fear makes you small. It takes courage to be creative. But it’s worth it.

Quinn McDonald’s mother was lost to fear. She doesn’t want to follow in those footsteps.

13 thoughts on “No Safety Guarantees

  1. I lived and worked in London in the early 70s, when bomb attacks were the norm. There were the IRA as well as the Palestinians happily trying to perfect their bomb-making skills on an unsuspecting public. We often had no bomb squad to go in and check everything for us, we had to do it for ourselves, and on one occasion I had a very lucky escape when a home made device only caught fire and did not explode when thrown in a rubbish bin. Evacuations two and three times a day were not uncommon. Being unable to go home because the bomb squad was searching the neighbourhood was not a rare event. However there was one important thing we had going for us then that does not happen today – we did not have 24/7 media creating panic and fear, and analysing the least important bit of information to appear that they actually know what they are talking about! This cranks up the fear level a couple more notches and causes unnecessary panic and distress.
    Bomb scares are very frightening when you are not used to them, and there is no such thing as getting used to them, but in reality there is far more likelihood of being run over by a bus or being shot than there is of falling victim to a bomb attack. The bomb-makers aim is to force you to live in an atmosphere of fear (aided and abetted by the media); they know they are unlikely to be able to kill or injure too many people at one time. If you really want to give them an “up yours”, live your life to the fullest, love your friends and family, do good, and embrace strangers as friends you have yet to get to know. Love, creativity, and doing good are the things that overcome the evil that these people do.
    We none of us know when our time is up, worrying about it is a waste of our productive and creative lives.

    • I really appreciate your wisdom shared here, and I totally agree that our media is making things more frightening than necessary to up their ratings. So to them, here’s an “up yours,” as I keep trying to live my life as you so beautifully expressed.

    • Quinn’s piece made me think about those IRA bombings and the way Brits reacted to them so your comment was very interesting. To me as a Finn (we have next to no experience of terrorism or bombs – not since WWII) the subtle way the possibility of bombs is addressed in UK is admirable. You often don’t even notice them unless you know where to look. The only time I, as a tourists, have found it a hassle are the major railway stations and their lack of luggage lockers as the secure luggage services are expensive. Once in Scotland we wondered why all lockers in even in remote stations were closed until we a few days later spotted a special train while hiking in Highlands. Apparently the lockers had been searched and locked a week in advance to make sure no-one could left a device on the stations that VIP-train passed by.
      But anyway, I salute the way Brits have decided not to give in in the face of fear.

    • I agree with you. You went through a horrific time, and I am certainly not negating how you had to live. I learned this wisdom because I lived in Washington, D.C. through 9/11, couldn’t get home for hours, had to remain calm when there were so many rumors and panic.

      The media whips up fear and we live IN fear. We can all live WITH fear because it does serve a useful purpose. But

  2. Some time ago I stopped participating in media purposelessly. No TV, no radio, no newspapers, no Craigslist, no internet “news” sites. I sometimes benefit from a weather forecast, but that’s about it. There’s a lacuna in my mind reserved (not by me) for “things to be afraid of”. It’s a constant struggle to keep it unpopulated, particularly by idiotic things.

    Fear can be a helpful thing. But for most people in modern societies it’s not. It’s the same as the craving for calories; it’s a biological thing we’ve engineered and organized to make irrelevant. But biological things are hard to control, so they’re still around. Now they’re harmful.

    • I’ve stopped watching a lot of TV, although I still do watch a few shows–Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey. But news as I knew it growing up–the people who studied world events and reported on it–it almost completely gone. Now it’s newsreaders, pushing their station’s ratings. Feeding us fear so we don’t think for ourselves. And yes, of course, some fear can be helpful. That’s why we live with it. So I read newspapers and inform myself so I can vote intelligently. But the hype? the fear mongering so I’ll give up privacy, civility, rational thought? Nope, not for me.

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