The Wheel Turns: Risk, Safety, Risk

 

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Stephen F. Dennstedt

I’m not the first person to compare life to a wheel. It’s a great metaphor, from what goes around comes around to the hub and spoke comparisons. I am particularly drawn to the what goes around aspect of the wheel & life comparison, there is a symmetry that comforts me: a returning to our roots, our beginning, as it were. I recently watched an in-depth interview with Clint Eastwood where he talked about taking risks when we’re young, then becoming more conservative in middle age, and then returning to risk taking in our later years.

The fact that many people don’t return to risk taking in their twilight years saddens me. Risk taking (thinking outside the prescribed societal box) can help keep you young, vigorous and energized. He put a finer point on it by saying: you’re old what are they going to do to you? The point being you have nothing much to lose. I’ve broken my life into 22-year increments in the belief (false or otherwise) that I’m going to live to 88. My first 22-years were filled with risk, years 22 through 66 not so much, quickly approaching 70 (May 18th) I am back to the riskier side of life.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, even after a lifetime of living life (and fucking up more often than not). But I have come to believe that living and risk taking isn’t just the provenance of the young. In our youth risk taking is often the product of naiveté or just plain stupidity (an immature not fully formed brain, mostly in boys) . The conservatism of our middle years is typically born of fear—the fear of losing what we’ve worked so hard for: whether it’s the acquisition of stuff, knowledge or domestic security. For the lucky few we rediscover our riskier self and become a much wiser kid again. Longue vie de liberté. It’s not for me to judge where you’re at in life and that’s not the purpose of this post. My mission is to articulate the provocative question: where do YOU think you are in life?

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