05 December 2013

TED talk of the day

I was watching TED talks this morning to help me think about my passions and pursuits. I was going to write about the New York City traffic talk because I was so excited to have found someone who had spent her whole career figuring out what is just starting to take shape in my head, which is that traffic and design can help people make cities more livable, easily. But the talk that hit me where I live is a talk by Eleuthera Lisch on Becoming immune to violence.

That one made me cry, and made me worry, too. I live in a very violence-free environment: the kind of violence I am most likely to be present in the vicinity of is a fight between drunken college students outside a restaurant or more likely a bar (but I so rarely find myself out late late at night anymore), or a car crash. (Not one caused by me, to clarify.) I don't take my daughter to CU football games because neither of us particularly wants to surround ourselves with loud drunk people. If we want to watch a game, there's always TV, which we can control. We don't go where people are likely to be out of control, but every now and then someone gets too drunk and gets belligerent (I wonder: will this guy remember what a dick he was being or will he just think he was having a good time?).

I worry because my daughter is entering a phase in her life where she is more likely to be in places at times when she is more vulnerable to violence, and I hope she stays cautious as she has throughout her childhood. That is, I hope caution is one of her traits, and not just a reflex. And I worry my mom is vulnerable because she is alone so much of the time and she is getting so frail.

What did I do that made me unsafe as a kid? Besides living in a household where violence toward others was commonplace? Trailed after the wrong people for the sake of novelty, for the thrill. Went places with people who weren't sober. Sometimes I chose to; it wasn't always my parents. On the other hand, I had become habituated to it. My daughter would be boggled at the things that were going on around me then, if she were to compare my world with her environment today.

Today, I choose to stay fairly safe but keep alert. Several years back, we were berry-picking with friends in northern California when I suddenly feared for my daughter's life: a set of hunting hawks seemed to be spiraling toward my daughter's shiny dark head. We hid in the car for more than five minutes before the hawks lost interest and flew away. This incident frightened us and told us that anything can happen, anytime. But knowing that helps, in some funny way, not to keep us hypervigilant, but to keep us open-hearted and light on our feet. If we need to fight or flee, we can,  -- but we might also need to take a breath and try compassion first.

The talk culminates with the Alive and Free movement, with four rules for living:
1. Respect comes from within.
2. Change begins with the individual.
3. A true friend will never lead you to danger.
4. There is nothing more valuable than a life.

How will this affect your choices?

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