“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”
These are very strange times, and the strangest part is what appears to be our emotional, cultural, political, and economic obsession with safety.
Today, in Austin, a bunch of dudes in dresses and some manly-looking chicks are showing their disapproval of what has come to be known as The Texas Bathroom Bill. If signed into law, the Bathroom Bill would mandate that in Texas, one’s biological gender determines which public restroom you are legally allowed to enter. At the heart of the opposition is the idea that a person deserves a fun and stress-free experience in a public facility, whether they be trans-gendered, trans-fluid, trans-creative, trans-not-really-sure, or even trans-just-trying-on-the-dress-for-the-day. In other words, it’s all about a safe space to pee.
That’s right. In a nation packed to the rafters with over 300-million people, 1.4 million of those folks are just not having a good time in the pisser. And they are demanding safety in the stalls.
But they’re not the only ones. College students across the nation are demanding safe spaces from political dissent, mean looks, college loans, tacos, really hard tests, and Make America Great Again hats. Millennials in the workforce want safe spaces from getting yelled at by their bosses or oppressive employment practices such as, you know, having to get up before four in the afternoon or doing stuff the aforementioned boss wants you to do. Young moms want safe spaces to pop out a boob and ween their critters whenever they see fit, whether Baby Happy Hour arrives during a high school graduation ceremony, Holy Communion, or a flat track, all-female roller derby bout. Public school students want safe spaces from bad grades and Dodge Ball. Fat people want shame-free, safe spaces at the local gym. Skinny people want safe spaces from being called skinny people. Crazy people want safe spaces from being called crazy. Stupid people want safe spaces from being called stupid. In fact, Americans in general want safe spaces from everything to being criticized, made fun of, disagreed with, shamed, or being made to feel like anything less than the center of the freaking Universe.
The problem with this idea of ‘safety’ is, well…life ain’t safe.
Not the cool parts, at least.
Think about that one person you admire more than anyone else, the personal hero who inspires you. More than likely, that person took some kind of a risk or a series of risks to achieve whatever it is that you find admirable about their life. A famous writer who walked away from a safe career to write that first novel. An actor or actress who went to Hollywood with fifty bucks in their pocket, and ended up winning an Oscar. An astronaut who allowed themselves to be strapped to a rocket and blasted off into space. A fireman who ran into a burning building while everyone else was running out.
I can tell you that the best things I’ve done in my life almost always involved some kind of a personal or professional risk. Resigning from a pretty ‘safe’ talk show in Delaware and moving to Colorado without a gig lined-up on the other end was a biggie for me. Although there were bumpy times along the road, that one risk would eventually pay-off with gigs in Denver and L.A., as well as the best gig I’ve ever had in my life, my current show at KTSA. Had I not rolled the dice on the Colorado move, I’d probably still be on Delmarva, reading hog and corn futures for a living, and calling Bingo games at the local firehouse for a few extra bucks.
Beyond that, trying to squeeze an unsafe world into a ‘safe space’ is inherently a dangerous thing to do, in one sense. Danger lurks everywhere. Walking down the street. Driving a car. Travelling in an airplane. Eating sushi. Falling in love. Making new friends. Breathing. All of it, either to our bodies or our hearts, involves danger and risk. The very act of being born is risky, given the cosmic set-up we are each saddled with: You get born, you get to live, and then you get to die, and no one knows when that third thing is going to happen. The danger of seeking safety in this most unfair and quite random maelstrom of risk is the danger of not living at all. Indeed, the only way to truly live as safe a life as possible is to do and try as little as possible. Don’t fall in love. Don’t take the job in L.A. Don’t travel. Don’t risk.
Don’t. Do. Anything.
And then, in the blink of an eye, when you least expect it, the theater fades to black and it’s over. No more time left, and it’s too late to take the risks you regret not taking, and do the not-very-safe things you always dreamed of doing. Or, in the words of Jim Morrison, “Did you have a good world when you died, enough to base a movie on?”
I say safety last. Take the risk. Roll the dice. And tell your safe spaces to go to Hell.
I dare you. I double-dog dare you.
Jesus loves you and so do I,