387. The Stuff of Memories and Nightmares

December 24, 2014

Typically, we are less than spontaneous in deciding what to do next. If we feel that a lot is riding on our decision, then we can make lists of pros and cons, weigh them, prioritize them, review them, reshuffle them, add other possibilities and eliminate the ones we find weak or unacceptable.

If we have the luxury of time to come up with a plan, we can usually mull such matters long enough to finally decide what to do. What job to take, school to attend, partner to join, apartment to rent, neighborhood to live in, or meal to fix for supper. We often do this by narrowing our choices down to two alternatives, and then by eliminating one or the other.

When we have a great many options in steering our course between the reefs on either hand, it is the uncharted ones that cause most of the trouble, the ones we do not suspect are even out there, waiting for us to make one wrong turn or misstep. It takes a great deal of vigilance to be constantly on guard. Too much, that is, in comparison with our everyday habits and expectations.

On local ground or in familiar waters, perhaps we can get by without accident, But sooner or later the sun will be in our eyes, or night will fall, fog roll in, visibility drop to zero, and we will find that our habits and routines are not good enough guides to engagements that continue nonetheless without benefit of oversight.

I have tales to tell about each of these factors endangering my life as a casual wayfarer caught off-guard by prevailing conditions. When blinded by the sun, steering my car into the ditch to avoid oncoming traffic. Feeling my way with my feet across the face of a cliff after sunset. Turning my boat in circles with no sense of direction in the fog. Getting trapped between cliffs of ice ahead and behind me, watching icicles fall into the trail just where I would have been had I not stopped to take one last picture. These are the stuff of memories and nightmares I will never forget, engagements gone wrong due to lack of forethought, wisdom, or due caution.

No wonder parents become worrywarts when the responsibilities of child-rearing strike home, and children grow to maturity sadder but wiser for the risks they have taken without knowing any better during fits of youthful fervor.

 

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