On The World As A Dangerous Place
(from a letter to a worried friend)
Let me share this with you before addressing your concerns. I am living on an active volcano. Molten lava is flowing about twenty miles away from my home and there is a crater emitting poisonous gas from a hole where the glow of molten lava can be seen only two miles away. A change of wind could force us to evacuate at any moment, and the lava could erupt anywhere at any time. All of our water must come from rain, which is also dependent on the wind, and it hasn't rained very much for two weeks. Earthquakes happen every day, usually small, but big ones like we had two years ago can happen at any time. Hurricanes pass close to us every year and sometimes land to cause great destruction, like one did in 1982 and another in 1992. Tsunamis also happen once in a while when there are big earthquakes in Japan, Alaska, or California.
Some people here live in constant fear of what might happen, and some people live here happily, knowing what could happen, but not dwelling on that possibility every day.
Another short story: Years ago a friend of mind became obsessed with the possibility of a giant tidal wave hitting the California coast, and he would lecture about it and frighten people out of their wits. Then one day while he was describing to an audience in detail the horror of watching a two-mile high wave coming toward you, I stood up and said, "Right, and while you are watching it you get hit by a car and die before the wave hits." Fortunately our friendship survived my comment, but I had to make the point that the future is unpredictable.
You live in a dangerous place in unique circumstances, but the fact is that every place on earth is potentially dangerous and pain or death can happen in a million different ways at any time and anywhere. And so can pleasure and the joy of living and loving.
Reading the news about problems will not protect you from them, because by the time it's news it's over. Imagining the worst will not protect you from the worst, it will only make you feel worse. Your imagination is your greatest asset, but it can also be your downfall unless you use it properly. You can imagine all the bad things that could happen, or you can imagine all the good things that could happen. That is a choice. You do not have to be a victim of your fears if you will use your imagination to change those fears. After all, the future is just a fantasy. You can't predict it and you can't protect yourself against it. What you can do is to coax it into being a better one with your imagination while you enjoy whatever good the present has to offer.
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