Good Odds: Betting on Safety

I am in denial. I do not think that anything too terrible could actually happen to me.

I have spent hours in lectures about the human body and learning about all of the amazing abilities that it has. I have also heard of the numerous ways in which things can go wrong and harm a human. I do not want to think that anything could go wrong in me.

Terrible things do happen: a shooting, a distant relative that was diagnosed with cancer or an unfortunate car accident that was fatal. Though I may not say it to myself in all these words I am convinced that these things simply do not happen to me. It’s really a great type of coping mechanism.

Experience has taught me that I am usually safe in this world. When I am faced with a story of tragedy that is not applicable to my own experience, I assume that it could never happen to me. So here I am: completely aware of all of the worldly possibilities of sickness, crime and death, yet still unwilling to consider that these tragedies may one day infringe upon my life.

One time there was a shooting that happened in my home town. The city closed down all of the schools for one day and advised people to be wary of a criminal that was running loose. I was away from home when this happened, but the rest of my family was tucked away in my house. I knew that I should have been worried for them and scared for their safety, but for some reason I was not overcome by fear. The only explanation that I can think of is that in my mind I knew that this sort of thing, a thing like my family being murdered, just did not happen to me.

It is because of this that I can stand to sit through lectures on hemorrhagic strokes that happen to twenty year olds, study ways to prevent pulmonary embolisms, and know what to do in case of an unresponsive patient in cardiac arrest and still leave my classroom thinking that I am perfectly safe.

You do the same thing too. Even though you’ve heard of all of the possibilities and many ways that things in life can go wrong, you go home at the end of the day and think that you are perfectly safe. Even if one bad thing happens to you, the odds of it occurring again or something else affecting you negatively are still very low. If you get struck by lightning once, it is not any more likely that it will happen to you again.

We’ve learned to accept the odds of daily living and keep living life. It would in fact be more crippling to think that the odds were not in our favor. This mindset of denial helps us live a life that is, for the most part, one of a safe feeling.

Our denial is healthy to some extent. It keeps us from freezing amidst the stage of life and helps us to remember that we can live comfortably and not in the fear of something like immediate death.

But I’d like to contrast what I’ve been calling denial with another type of self-foolery. This one prevents us from living life even more than a phobia of worldly mishaps can.

It is that thought that nothing really great will ever happen to us. The odds of life being “normal” are really high too, right? We resign ourselves to the prospect of greatness and go home at the end of the day accepting that we live in the center of the bell curve.

I’ve heard stories of wonderful miracles: hospital patients who were expecting death magically healed, fantastic stories of the redemption and joyous moments of a tragedy overcome. In response to this I think that these things simply do not happen to me. Experience has taught me that life is what it is and that to expect something above and beyond the norm is unreasonable. So I stay in the boundaries that I have marked off for myself and do not hope in things that are too great to actually reach.

You think the same thing too. That the odds of something terribly wonderful happening to you are just too low to bank on. So we do not think about them and go on living a life that may not be as hopeful as it could.

In the end we do not have much control over the bad things that happen to us, especially since we do not expect them, but we do have more control over the good things that can happen to us. It is good to be comfortable in the great odds of our safety, but to be complacent in our averageness does not make for a very exciting life.

By expecting more out of ourselves and living in the hope that something wonderful could happen, something that we have the power to make happen, then we can begin to move the bell curve in the right direction.