Tuesday, September 05, 2006

familiar

You may have heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt”. I’ve not really been all the sure about what that really looks like in real life. I think that it means that the more familiar you are with a situation, the more you take it for granted and the less you dwell on certain possible consequences. We’ve all been reminded of this with the passing of “The Crocodile Hunter”. It could be said that he died doing what he loved. I’m not an expert and have no great insight into the circumstances, but it has caused me to pause and wonder if some people don’t die because they are doing what they love. What I mean is, because they are pursuing a life long passion that has become second nature to them, their guard is down and danger happens. Statistics show that an abnormally large percentage of auto accidents occur relatively close to home. Many serious injury accidents occur in the mundane routine parts of everyday life. We may try to keep to the familiar to feel safe, but the paradox is that the familiar can indeed lead us straight into danger.
Every once in awhile, for some bizarre reason, I find myself consciously watching cars fly by at ridiculous speeds only inches apart from each other. It’s amazing really. It’s also frightening. I don’t really remember the process of learning to drive myself, but I remember teaching my kids. We took back roads and side streets for some time until they became familiar with the concept of speed and other 2 ton missiles being guided by other unconscious souls along the same pathways. When I stop to think about it, it’s not comforting to know that we are relying, in large part, on the wisdom of engineers to insure a reliable missile in which to propel ourselves. I should know…I spent a great deal of time in engineering. Take my word for it, you’re better off not thinking about such things. Anyway, when you think about it, considering that we’re relying on human engineering and human training and human consciousness, we shouldn’t be shocked and surprised when fatal accidents occur. We should be shocked when they don’t.
We have been lulled into a subconscious dream state of the familiar in which bad things do sometimes happen. It causes me to pause this morning, as I approach 43 years of successfully navigating and dodging bullets. I wonder what I’ve missed during my “take for granted” periods of existence. Have I missed friendships because of it? I’m pretty sure that I must have. I’ve certainly neglected them, assumed that they’d always be there for me on a day less busy than today. The sobering fact is that I can’t remember a today that was less busy than a yesterday. I know that I’ve missed “growing up” moments with my kids. I imagined that they’d always be little. They’re not anymore. I imagined that they’d always live at home. They don’t anymore. I know that I’ve missed romantic moments with my wife. The flowers will always be there, right? I’m sure that I’ve missed teachable moments before God. The sunrises painted for me in the mornings should tell me everyday that He cares. The sunsets should comfort me that He’ll be there again tomorrow. I talk too much and listen too little. And I know that a primary reason in all of these instances is familiarity. I’ve been lulled into a subconscious land called “been there”. It’s a land of no surprises, no challenges, and no goals. It’s the autopilot that we inadvertently engage in the morning when we think we’re turning off the alarm. We imagine ourselves living each day, only to realize in later years that we were sleep walking.
The good news is that I’m awake now. I can work on now. I can focus on now. I can pay attention to now. I can learn, I can experience, and I can thrive in now. I can keep my guard up for as long as possible and not let the minutes slip away into a meaningless dream state. The minutes and days and years that I pass through will know that I’m there. It may not keep me alive any longer, but at least I’ll be living.

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