02 August 2011

too safe

Freedom entails risk. This is the starting point of a good amount of theology, for it sets the context of the divine-human relationship. The human heart yearns to be free, and will embrace any risk to attain it.

Interestingly, I recently read an article about a scientific study regarding playgrounds. The research presented seems to indicate a rather fascinating phenomenon: playgrounds that are too safe may stunt emotional development in the individual. "Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground," according to Norwegian psychologist Ellen Sandseter. The article goes on to cite six categories of risky play: "exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision."

Children learn to navigate risks at a progressive rate - climbing higher and higher over time - as proper development of life. And the more we learn about life, the more we learn about life. Examining creation reveals the Creator. Here we learn that the proper development of a free creature means encountering (and overcoming) risk. So why is one of our most sought-after desires in life to be safe?

Remember what Mr. Beaver taught us about Aslan: "Safe? . . . don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

Here's what psychologists are saying about the undeveloped experiences with risk in children: "Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology." In a very real sense, our fear of short-term physical cuts and bruises damages much more than that by making long-term damage of psychological, emotional and spiritual selfs. The context in which the human was placed - to serve, to learn, to grow, to govern - is a world of risk and danger. Some of this is too much - physical and otherwise - and so we must be safeguarded from certain hazards. But the rest is known as life, and we continually search to be free and to discover that life more abundant that we have tasted and follow as a promise.

Thus we are filled with a sense wonder for what is out there. We want to explore, to discover purpose, to fulfill destiny. This is not because we have been conditioned by any particular configuration of playgrounds, but more so that we have been created with that drive in our core. This desire will ultimately play out differently for each of us, but stems from the same spark of creativity which the Giver has placed within the human heart. And it explains why mom used to say, "You'll never know unless you try."

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