Danger, Danger
By Bart Vogelzang

Some places are just perfect…you can relax, shed all your stress, and be completely at ease. Everyone has their own place of security, but some seem to be common to nearly everyone. The beach is a one that comes to mind, probably because it is summer, with bobbing in a boat being not far behind, or just lolling around in a nearby lake or stream. Sitting on a rock outcrop overlooking a valley, or maybe on a dune, looking out over the vast wilderness before you. Closer to home, your patio, with the easy chairs scattered around, the distant buzzing of bees, traffic far from your awareness. Maybe your living room, or, for the lucky wealthy, your den is such a peaceful retreat. Maybe your place of peace is a sauna, or even a cave, many feet into the bowels of the earth. One thing they have in common is that they are perfect…right? Well no, actually.

What we don’t consciously notice is that the very places we value for their peaceful security are actually the most hostile of places. There is little animal life possible in them, and even plants have a struggle to survive there. We are actually relaxing because we don’t perceive any enemies there. With no life threatening dangers, and often not even irritating inconveniences present, we transport ourselves into these dangerous areas with the support of our planning and external infrastructure; in other words, we bring with us whatever we need to survive the nasty place. Towels, water, sunscreen, food, cushions, and maybe that spelunking helmet and flashlights are some of those support network products we bring along.

We cannot really stand dangerous or irritating competition, and if you don’t believe me, just think about how much we enjoy relaxing in a deep forest or a jungle. How about settling down for a nice snooze in a swamp, or in the backyard during mosquito season? We don’t see people flocking into waters that teem with sharks, gators, snakes or piranhas, do we? Even at the ‘beach’ people will relax on the sand, but shun soaking in the nearby tide pools scattered within the rock outcroppings. We instinctively know that with care we can relax in hostile lands, and that instinct carries right over into other hostile situations. It doesn’t just apply to nature situations, but also to human creations.

Nobody relaxes in a riot, or in a war. Everyone seeks out safe situations. The safer they feel, the more they relax; and less when they don’t feel quite so at ease. Arguably, your family may be the best place to feel protected, but gathering together with friends is probably the next best thing for being at ease. After that there are likely to be clubs, church groups, and other associations with like-minded people. Your enemies, those who you feel may pose some danger to you, are a distant non-worry.

Less comfortable, but still acceptable enough that you can let your guard down for the most part, would be events you attend, in which you are all there for the same reason; places like shows, sports games, parades, and even your workplace. It’s never quite as good though, as we can feel that others may not have quite the same objectives, maybe with someone playing office politics, or there being people supporting a different team, or not everyone watching the parade approving of all the floats. Who knows why, but the potpourri of people present adds a level of uncertainty that leaves us less comfortable.

So how come, with downright hostile situations being extremely stressful for us, do we quite often end up there? Well, we carry that infrastructure of safety with us, just like when we went to the beach. Angry people come face to face, but almost never on an individual basis. LGBTQ people have Pride Parades, in which they feel safety in their numbers and like-mindedness, and protest groups are able to confront them only because of their own numerical support structure and their signs to hide behind.

The bottom line is that if we cannot take our safety protection with us, most of us will do anything to avoid a danger zone. We seek out those areas in which we feel secure, most at ease, and that means those places without our enemies and irritations.

The next time you feel truly comfortable somewhere, totally at ease, think about what perceived enemy you have banned from being there with you. Is there really danger being held at bay, or is it all in your mind?

© 2011 Bart Vogelzang, All Rights Reserved