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2009 Resolution the First: From The Edges

Posted on by Paul Roth

Deer are creatures of the edge. They live along the outskirts of life, be it in the forest or the suburbs. They survive on what they can find, grazing giving way to scavenging should they exist near sources of great teeming life. They are pretty and innocent and useless. They make this world a better place by their beauty but it is a purposeless accidental achievement. I like them, but I do not want to be them.

I think my nature also keeps me living along the edge of things. At dances, I stand on the sidelines and watch for opportunities to dance. At parties, I move out of the center and converse with those who happen to pass by me. I wonder how many more instances there are when I stand at the border of some aspect of life and just enjoy whatever circumstances fall in my direction?

I am comfortable on the edge of things. I stand by myself, I do things on my own, I make decisions based on personal reasons, and I avoid impacts with those around me. That lifestyle is comfortable to me. But I realize that psychological comfort is an illusion.

I suspect that we are comfortable when we think that we have support and safety and knowledge of what is to come. I could make the argument that by staying in comfortable situations, the probability of harm or calamity is lessened, but statistics working in one’s favor aren’t sufficiently useful when you are hit by an unlikely disaster. At the beginning of September of 2001, I would have thought that working in a lower level of the Twin Towers in New York City was a safe enough thing to do. I imagine probabilities would have been on my side. But those probabilities didn’t save the victims of the terrorist act that occurred soon into that month.

I have come to realize that staying back in the shadows is only useful for cowards and villains. When I wade into the thick of events amidst people and the chaos of life, I encounter more opportunities for excitement and happiness than what drifts in the thin fringes. It can be a bumpy experience, but bruises heal and collisions breed interesting stories.

I have already inserted myself into the midst of dances. I can have fun with a dance partner along the side, at the back, or in the middle of a dance floor; but when I can be there in the middle of things, I am more likely to be surrounded by excitement and can better share in my fellow dancers’ joys. Most of life is a dance of some sort, so why not extend this approach to broader circumstances?

In 2008, I went on more journeys than in most years, though many of them happened by accident. I attended more events and parties. I put myself into more crowds of people. I reached out to more people. I didn’t like all of it, but that’s not required. I did experience a much greater variety of emotions and encounters than perhaps ever before and by the end of the year I had much better stories. All of those benefits came to me often without my conscious decision to pursue them. Well, I can learn from accidents as well as I can from lessons, and I have learned that there is more and better in this life than what I can see from the edge.

This year, I resolve to throw myself into the midst of things. Whether that means sporty activities, meetups of various groups of people, venues I normally wouldn’t enter, or just random circumstances from which I’d normally veer off, I will strive not to move away. I will instead stride into the center of the world to explore what I haven’t yet encountered. I wonder if I’ll find you there? I wonder what I will find?

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