Freedom and Safety
Most the activities I enjoy, and experiences I seek out, play with my comfort level of acting freely in a safe context. Safety means different things to different people. I am more comfortable with risk because I have a depth of life experience that not everyone has. And I know myself well–I am a good friend to me. Certainly there are people with a much broader range than I have. I know what kinds of pain I really do not want, but often discomfort is a great part of pleasure.
Discomfort means I’m trying something new, and am not in control of the outcome. It requires openness and trust. It requires knowing what is at risk and how valuable, vulnerable, and mortal we are. As Hobbes discussed in the Leviathan, we are all equal in that we can all be killed.
I had “to give myself a little talking to” this weekend. I became obsessed with a motorcycle I want to buy. I love the freedom of solitude and riding fast, feeling the wind and the curve of the roads. I love trusting myself to make split second decisions. I don’t love the ratio of drunk drivers in Austin and the traffic on the roads here, unlike the quiet mountain roads of New Mexico I used to ride. I had to remind myself that I have two young boys who need me. Perhaps when Roland is 18, I can buy myself another motorcycle.
Too much prudence is sleeping death. I am joyous and passionate and want to feel everything. Though I know well how to heal, recover, and reconnect, for me there is no joy in drama or sadism. If I am anything, it is resilient.
I had a great conversation with a friend last night where we talked about an artist I love, Marino Marini. (If you are ever in Florence, Italy…) His work was so joyous and vibrant. I wish we had spent more time in art school talking about what makes an artwork joyous rather than what makes an artwork important. I suppose it is that ambitious, famous artists were more interested in being important and remembered, than being joyous and happy. I make my best art when I am happy, and creativity is the best expression of life—creativity is life. I practice the process of taking risks in my studios and having a piece of art record that risk.
I am the most free when I am alone. I am not often surprised by myself and need the challenge of intimacy, dance, and conversation. It is similar to the freedom of being in nature, where there are the risks of the wild, but no risks of the heart, except the quiet to hear the heart’s own song. Living in the city, there are many human risks, and not much risk of the grizzly bear.
So how do we have human relationships that are both safe and free? How do we build trust? It seems so easy to compromise getting what we need of freedom to feel safe. I am learning to make split second decisions in the world of humans, like when I ride a motorcycle. “How about we…”, “not right now”, “ok!” “can you say more of what you mean?”, “aha!” and “surprise me” need to come out of my mouth much quicker. The magic eight-ball’s answer of “ask again later” may be my all time favorite. I think that is the magic secret, really. To keep asking myself, to keep asking others, and to keep asking life for more. I’ll ask again later if I can have a motorcycle.