Simon Wood


marathon-manI was thinking about the perception of safety the other day. Julie doesn’t like it when I leave the front door unlocked when we’re in the house. She doesn’t want anyone storming the castle gates while we’re at home, so she puts her faith in a deadbolt. A two inch slug of steel not even an inch in diameter will keep her from harm. She doesn’t worry (but probably will after this blog) that there’s nothing stopping evil doers from chucking a rock through any of our floor to ceiling windows and entering the house that way.

I started thinking about other safe things in our lives.

When the little red man tells me not to walk, I don’t. The little red man knows all about danger. That’s why he’s red. When I ignore his advice, my heart rate is up a few beats.

Down on the BART system, a row of yellow bricks tells me I’m safe from the speeding trains if I stand behind the yellow bricks, I’m safe. And I do feel safe. The moment I stand on those yellow bricks, I feel queasy. I’ve put myself in danger. A train could hit me. Someone could bump me and send me sprawling onto the electrified rails. Those yellow bricks have some power behind them. It’s really silly. The bricks have no power. My safety can’t be measured by the width of a row of yellow bricks. There’s so much other contributing factors that can take their toll on me.

How many of us fear earthquakes, tornadoes, being struck by lightning or an in-law coming to stay? While these things exist, there’s little chance of them affecting us?

I look around me without my safety goggles on and reexamine my environment. There are so many things I perceive as safe. Harm won’t come to me because I am not putting myself in harm’s way. Theoretically, that is. But boy, isn’t it a tenuous belief system? I am safe on the sidewalk because sidewalks are safe. There’s nothing to say a car won’t plow into me or I won’t trip and fall into road, but I don’t think about these things because the sidewalk is my talisman.

It all comes down to perception. If I perceive danger everywhere I go, then I will see danger everywhere. Perception is reality. If I think safe, then I am safe. I guess there’s a little bit of the Pavlov’s dog syndrome at work inside us all.

I quite like it when my thinking goes off the rails like this. I cross my eyes and I see the emperor without his clothes on. This is useful when it comes to the stories I tell. I like to unpick a character’s world until it unravels by attacking all the things that these people hold dear. Basically, I break down their perceptions and belief system. Life is a tightrope and I like to twang the cable while there are people on it—fictionally speaking that is. WORKING STIFFS serves as a good illustration for this thinking. Several of the stories take this theme to heart. We catch these characters on their worst days on their life, professionally and privately.

I hope I haven’t given of you worriers out there something worry over. If I have, don’t. Now, sleep tight and I’ll see you in your dreams.

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