Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Skin In The Game

The other day, I was listening to "Standing Outside The Fire" by Garth Brooks. After years of jeering him, I've become a fan to a limited extent. I think it was the garish, campy outfits that had me fooled, but they couldn't hide the good songs he's got. The particular song I mentioned got me thinking about some heavy concepts. It talks about the exposure of oneself to harm being essential to the process of experiencing life as fully as can be done. It's not the first time I've given thought to the concept of risk and its necessity. I do so often precisely because of the tremendous difficulty I have in shouldering certain risks. Following through on my desire to ask women out remains a shaky proposition, and not for any rational reason.

I've decided that it's even worse than I thought, for it's not even a question of taking risks. Framing the issue as being one of accepting risk suggest that there's some chance of the thing feared not happening. There's just no hope of that, for it's not a coin flip with a very good chance of landing your way- it's maybe like a lifetime string of flips, and what you hope for is that you win enough flips to finish ahead of the mean when you're done. Any life lived with the willingness to risk must be lived necessarily with the willingness to lose, because you will lose, and probably often. I don't mean to paint such a grim picture  for it's certainly not hopeless. In the end, you do lose it all, but only because you can't take it with you, as they say. The hope is that the bulk of it comes only on that day.

If the way of the Samurai is anything like the way Jim Jarmusch represents it, then they may have it right. I understand that the thing they do is accept at the outset that they are already dead, permitting them to do what they must without regard for the dangerous things they must do and the near inevitable consequence of carrying them out all the way. I guess it's what they call fatalism, although I confess that my single community college course in philosophy may be serving me ill on this matter. I hope to take that concept of fatalism to heart beyond my ability to leap into cold pools and hot baths without flinching, but perhaps not to the point of taking as a given my own violent demise.

Now, the idea of loss as a certainty is of course a scary and depressing thought if you really believe it. It's understandable that it would provoke in you the impulse of becoming risk-adverse, inclined to playing things safe- to never going out or letting anyone in. It makes me think of a beleaguered king who dwells in his castle always for fear of facing hostile action. Have you ever read anything about life in those days? To me things sound rough even for monarchs. They would have a circuit of castles that they would rotate between. While at one, they would have their subjects blasting the walls of the previous ones with boiling hot water to kill the parasitic insects which were rampant in those places. It's enough to make you go out and take your chances against an invading army if you have any sense.

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