Friday, February 7, 2014

An Abundance of Caution

"O What a Beautiful Morning"

The Olympics have begun -now center stage in the world's theater. Yesterday as I watched stories of final preparations- athletes and spectators arriving on the scene, venues being prepared, it looked more like everyone was "hunkering down" for a battle rather than "gearing-up" for a worldwide sporting event.

I can never remember a time when there was so much fear and terror associated with an event that should be so filled with joy and enthusiasm. After all, the Olympiad is a time for the whole world to gather together in peace. When I have watched the Olympics in past years, I can recall being very enthusiastic and even somewhat tearful to see that opening night procession of all the nations of the world - all walking together as one human family under a common Olympic flag.

I am feeling a bit different this time around.  In fact I think that perhaps, more than anything else, at this Olympics I am feeling a sense of underlying fear - and there are plenty of reasons for me to feel that way.

For the past weeks we have been inundated with stories of credible terrorist threats. The Olympic city of Sochi has been turned into an armed camp- soldiers with machine guns and tanks on the streets and at the city gates, guided defense missiles in the neighboring mountains, and warships docked in the nearby harbors.  

A few days ago, travelers to the Olympics were warned to be on guard against the possibility of terrorists bringing toothpaste tubes filled with explosives onto Olympics-bound flights with the intent of "blowing up" the planes in mid-air. Carry-on luggage has now been barred on flights heading for Russia.

Yesterday as I listened to the news, a representative of the U.S. State Department said of the Olympics: "We have a sense of general apprehension about these events and we are proceeding with an abundance of caution."  

As I heard this analysis from the State Department, it occurred to me that this might actually be said about life in the world today in general.  In our everyday life of our everyday world today, many people seem to live with "a sense of general apprehension and proceed with an abundance of caution."

When people send their  children off to school, they have an underlying worry, a general sense of apprehension that this might just be the day for another crazed gun-toting lunatic with an assault weapon to show up at the doors of their school, in their neighborhood. People go to a movie and wonder if this may be the time when the very theater they are sitting in will be targeted for slaughter (or maybe a fellow patron will get gunned-down because he throws popcorn at the guy in front of him). People go to the mall today with a "general sense of apprehension" - will gunshots ring out? SWAT teams descend? People get on an airplane and wonder whether or not that tube of toothpaste held by a fellow passenger is really a bomb that will explode after the plane takes off. 

And so yes, because we live with an underlying fear, a general sense of apprehension, we do indeed proceed with an abundance of caution in our everyday living nowadays- always looking out for that lurking danger in almost every single place we find ourselves. 

As I sit in my garden at the break of a new day, I note that I can hardly ever remember a morning sky that was so brilliantly glowing as it is today as the sun is about to make it's appearance - red, yellow, orange purple, blue - and everything in the garden is also glowing, basked in the shades of the rainbow array. Such bold beauty!

I think of all the "grey" in the lives of so many people who are also beginning their day today, living under the clouds of a "general sense of apprehension" - living their lives with an abundance of caution- timid, fearful, anxious, barely "squeaking through the day," always keeping others (especially different others) at arm's length. 

I actually think there are plenty of reasons to be afraid today, but I also believe that our fears do not need to debilitate any of us. If we allow that to happen, terror wins the day. 

I am very fond of something Nelson Mandela once said,

I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it.

Yes, we do live in a world where the threats are real and where danger is always possible, but I also believe that the best way to respond to a "general sense of apprehension" is to embrace an abundance of courage rather than being weighed down with the chains of an abundance of caution. 



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