Normalizing Danger

Normalizing Danger

So I am standing there, at the top of a 36 foot tall extension ladder reaching over the roofline above the third story of my home. Yeah, modicum of thought be damned, for there are quite mundane gutters to be cleaned.

Sure, as I was climbing up the ladder, I jiggled each foot to ensure a solid and secure perch. The ladder swayed slightly, and the concrete ground took successive notches of increasing steps to smallness in my view downwards. The growing danger in each step was clear and an evident threat.

But here at the top, my arms stretch out over the roof line, and those gutters and shingles aren’t moving a bit. From my new view over the gutters, I am presented with a stable and consistent view, including all that mossy gunk that’s accumulated in the gutters.

And so I work away, my feet held still on the top rungs of the ladder, but hidden from view below the obstructing eaves. All signs of the ground have disappeared from view as I work the gutters.

Scrape and toss, scrape and toss. And then I have to reach just a little bit further. It’s easy to reach. Scrape and toss. And just a little bit further. It’s just bending over… just … a bit … more. It’s seems so …. easy.

And then I get a glimpse of … not the roof line in front of me, but over the edge to the precarious drop that will end my life if I were to reach for just another inch or two..

This normalization of perceived safety when you’ve reached the best possible safe point for an otherwise dangerous position is one of the more fascinating mind conundrums to me. It happens all the time in our daily lives, both metaphorically and literally.

This is a life lesson that I always push on my kids. The problem is everywhere even just in literal examples.

Every time we touch the phone comfortably within reach in the stable and climate controlled cockpit of a car that is otherwise hurtling down the road at 70 mph – well, that’s just another example. If you were to imagine a person from 200 years ago being put in a car – even with a windscreen – and then ask them to load Google Maps app on your phone. Well, they would’ve been terrified just to be in the car, they would have completely lost it just to be at that speed – and long before you could even ask them to pickup the phone. And the fault lies not in their ignorance of modern transportation – for the fear of being at that speed is warranted. It is our fault in modern life to not be aware of the danger that we normalized in our youth.

Metaphorically, the normalization of false safety is just as prevalent. Life and consciousness is a fragile and ephemeral thing. And yet modern living has done everything it can to make us think that it is not.

If I were to imagine myself in Egyptian times – where your life can so easily be thwarted by the whims of the gods, warfare, germs, you name it. The mindset of a person back then is surely not so narcissistic as it is now. You are only a cog in the wheel of the gods. Achilles mortality was in inevitable and he was punished for thinking it to be anything but. Their mindset on the fragility and uncaring whim of mortality is as far away from our modern mindset of comfort and ease as is the ground from my falsely safe perch at the top of the ladder.

It is essential to my core to constantly place wake up sticky notes throughout my life. WAKE up! LOOK below! Recognize your precariousness! LIFE is just a heartbeat away from ending!

Some people have got no pride
They do not understand
The urgency of life


And it is not just the physical life, but the metaphysical where death is stagnation.


Wake up – for most of the people in the world are just out there cleaning the gutters of mundanity and thinking that the effort and risk in life is to reach just… one … more …. inch …. further. That risk is stupidity and the risk they fail to take is to peer over the edge where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein like.

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