Playing it safe is playing it dumb.  Let’s use a little talmudic reasoning, along the lines of “What’s the worst that could happen?”  This question is itself loaded with negativity, but works to move a resistant, fear based mind toward decreasing levels of negativity.

The ultimate “worst that can happen” is that we will suffer a miserable death.  Excuse me, but that “worst case scenario” is already in place.  Embrace it. Most anxious, fear based thinking is a black hole that sucks its victims into annihilation.

In the meantime, “How Now Shall We Live?” [See also Chuck Colson’s other book on “The Good Life” both derived as a further treatment of Francis Shaeffer’s “How Then Shall We Live?”].  Aristotle  treated the same question by concluding that the highest level of living was in a state of brave virtue seeking the good, true, and beautiful, or “eudaemonia.”

I argue that the “safe” life is not the “good” life, and I accept Aristotle’s basic premise that the “good” life is the “virtuous” life.  All of this, I postulate, in the face of the miserable deaths awaiting us all.  🙂  I do this as a Christian, but I could as well do it as an Agnostic or even an Atheist acting from rational ethical premises.

To “play it safe” we must eliminate possibilities.  The problem is that when we operate from fear, we eliminate not just the “bad” possibilities, but all the “good” ones as well.  In our preoccupation to control the outcomes, we eliminate all kinds of surprising but life-giving possibilities.  “Playing it safe” really underestimates our abilities.  We so undervalue our abilities to adapt, regroup, and thrive that we “take ourselves out of the game” before the game starts.

One of the reasons “safe” can be so compelling is that it is so “comfortable” as well.  Tolkien creates a hobbit invited into an adventurous life.  Bilbo Baggins faces his first enemy:  he must slay the inertia of a comfortable hobbit hole complete with hearth and tea cakes.  Sometimes we “play it safe” out of sheer laziness.

What is the common theme of both the philosophers, poets and writers:  adventure undertaken by a reluctant hero.  The hero enters realms of new possibilities.  He knows neither the outcomes nor the adequacy of his resources, but he dares.  He dares because of a dream and a compelling cause.   A heroine of the Bible, Queen Esther, must face the prospect of instant death upon approaching the King to request an audience without first being summoned.  She has a cause:  to save her people from genocide.  She ultimately embraces her dream, and accepts the “worst that could happen.”  She states:  “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”  [Esther 4:15-17].  She opens up a world of new possibilities by her dream and her daring.  The gamble pays off.  Justice and virtue prevail over conniving and treachery.

Heroes pursue heroic causes:  great dreams, high-minded visions, deep desires for growth, freedom, and fullness of life.  They step out into an unpredictable miasma of possibilities, some very good, and some very bad. The drama is in the uncertainty of those outcomes.  The heroic journey is in the fight for what is “good” against the forces of what is “bad.”  Juvenile you may say.  Then it is so.  Every human story is built on this premise.  It is the human condition that we are to struggle, and it is our God given design that we are to ultimately prevail . . . unless we choose to “to play it safe.”