If life, essentially, is a collection of punctuated moments of happiness, bliss, pleasure, etc., what is the appropriate amount of personal risk one should be willing (or eager) to take on for potential transcendence?

You? Transcendent? Ha! Humans, logically, are descended from a long line of ancestors that specialized in the skill of risk avoidance or, at least, risk mitigation. Fear is built into the human mind as a primary driver, and it has been through fear that our forefathers lived long enough to breed and pass on their genes. Yet, that is not the entire picture, is it? As the old proverb goes, “Faint heart never won fair lady.” So, the appropriate embodying of risk seems necessary for the most human things we value most.

And yet, I look around me. I watch people. I see, especially as people get older and more calcified in their life that risk diminishes and so does the potential for bliss or the transcendent. Why is this? Is it simply a survival strategy? Is the comfort of a rut more valuable than the risk for something greater? I once heard it said that a rut is a grave. Interesting idea, that. But is it right?

Maybe you shouldn’t talk, buddy. Yeah. I do it too. We all do. That’s what’s interesting. But I wonder sometimes as we rationalize away pursuing that which could be beautiful, more fulfilling and deep, energizing in a fashion that might shake us from our stupor … I wonder … well, isn’t any risk then worth it? For example, if I had asked you to do something somewhat dangerous for the potential of $50, you would probably laugh and say, “Hell, no.” But if changed that figure to $1,000,000,000, would your answer be the same?

Why is that true of money and not necessarily for emotional bliss? Is it that we don’t value emotions as we should? Or, maybe, is it that there is no ache like heartache, like loss, like facing our own weaknesses and shortcomings? I think sometimes of tragic characters in literature. And yes, it’s fiction, but there’s something we admire of the characters that would lay their vulnerability on the line in the pursuit of something transcendent.

You have a billion to give away? I don’t know the answer to this, but I can’t help but wonder if we are simply stymied by our own fear to the degree that we prevent even the potential for bliss. It’s like a kid who’s afraid to go outside because something bad might happen. Surely, if he stays inside, he knows that nothing more than the expected will happen.

Maybe it’s worth it to be foolhardy with our hearts and our emotions. Maybe it’s not. I suspect that we cannot boil down the equivalent of a dollar value to formulate the proper equation of risk vs. bliss. But I remember talking to a psychologist once, and this is a common idea, but he said that all emotions are either fear or love. If it is fear that drives us, even in the “good things” we do, are we in love? Are we living as such? And what would it look like if we were?

I can’t help but feel that this idea is perfectly captured in the Parable of Talents:

Matthew 25:14-30 (KJV)
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I don’t know. It’s a strange idea. I’d be curious to get your thoughts.

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