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Security is our god

Polls claiming most people's No. 1 concern is health care are wrong, and so is a University of Michigan survey that says money is the No. 1 worry.

(The survey also said money makes people the happiest -- and the unhappiest.)

The No. 1 concern is security; money and health care are part of that bigger need we don't articulate.

We want to feel safe, to know nothing bad is going to happen; that we will be able to pay the mortgage and get the kids braces; that we won't lose our job and the Canada Pension Plan won't fail.

We want a guarantee things will always work out, that our salary will go up and interest rates stay down.

But in the silence of our hearts, we know that's a sad commentary on who we have become. Life is not meant to be spent in constriction mode, trying to hang onto what we have, yet we build castles and hide inside.

We were meant to man the ramparts, to challenge life, “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield,” as Tennyson wrote in Ulysses.

“I came to realize that men build themselves personalities as they build houses -- to protect themselves from the world,” Colin Wilson wrote in Necessary Doubt.

“They become its prisoners, and most people are in such a hurry to hide inside their four walls that they build the houses too quickly.”

We ignore the call to freedom, to live without a net, flowing, shifting. Instead we want control, guarantees, and when we realize there aren't any, we try even harder to get them.

Maybe that's why we admire people who do live on the edge, who aren't afraid to waltz with life instead of watching from the edge of the dance floor.

These fringe dwellers don't have to climb mountains or jump out of planes to earn our admiration, they simply don't conform to societal criteria; they don't bet everything that a company will remember to reward them with more than a handshake and a watch.

"What profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul?" asks the Gospel of St. Mark.

We didn't intend to, but many of us set up residence in a wasteland that T.S. Eliot etched so brilliantly in the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the Hollow Men, and The Wasteland.

Not everyone likes to play it safe, or we'd still be huddled around campfires, hiding behind the walls of our castle, and humanity would have stayed inside the Straits of Gibraltar and believed what was written on the early maps: there be dragons.

The Phoenicians, the Vikings, the searchers, the explorers, the discoverers never felt comfortable in the crowd.

They sailed through the Pillars of Hercules into the greater world and they and their spiritual descendants built the road and paved it for us to drive along in comfort.

Canada wasn't settled and tamed by playing it safe. It took people with grit and courage, people like Henry Kelsey. In 1690, the Hudson's Bay Company sent the 20-year-old into the heart of a continent, into the unknown with an invitation (and some tobacco) to the natives to shop at the Bay.

He became the first white man to hunt buffalo, the first European to touch Saskatchewan soil. Kelsey's diary suggests he had quite an adventure, but since some of it is poetry and the prose vague, not much is known about his travels.

Like Kelsey or the Knights of the Round Table, even now, we, too, could strive for adventure, but most of us traded our birthright for a mortgage even though we didn't start out that way.

There was a time when we saw the world with awe-struck eyes; everything was wonderful, and it lasted until we chose to mount the hamster wheel and stay on it so we could buy a car, a TV, a house, a second car . . . until we didn't own those things, they possessed us.

The only remaining undiscovered country is our own heart, our own psyche. If we would be free men and women, we must ask ourselves whether we have the courage to trust the universe, to live life without a net, to be young enough at heart to emulate the young who can't wait to drink life to the lees.

We fear growing old, but we should fear not growing. We fear dying, but we should be more concerned about what we will be like when death comes for us.

We want to play it safe, to not fail. We remember the agony of defeat, but forget how much we learned, how much we grew by losing. We want to win the lottery without buying a ticket and we hope success comes looking for us.

We need the courage to quiet the rapacious voices in our minds so we can hear our intuition telling us it's OK, we're OK, to accept the truth we all know, but pretend we don't.

“Unless it grows out of yourself, no knowledge is really yours, it is only borrowed plumage,” wrote Zen master and author D.T. Suzuki.

Kahlil Gibran had a similar message in the Prophet: "You are far greater than you know, and all is well. Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self (and) the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

"There are no keys, for there are no doors."



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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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