I woke Tuesday morning to the news that the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok had been bombed; this is particularly poignant for me as I was at that shrine a week before to the day. I'm going to take care not to say 'relevant' for me as, frankly, other than the shared humanity I have with the victims, I am not really connected to the incident. I think there can be a bit of 'adventure hubris' in saying too eagerly, 'yeah, I was right there man…well, a week before but, hey, close call wasn't it?'
I do find it ironic that I was also in Madrid at one of the train stations that was bombed about a week prior; in both instances I had the thought that these places seemed relatively safe. I continually (and this is perhaps more prevalent with American friends) hear comments about how unsafe the world is now—that we could be attacked 'anywhere and everywhere'. However, the chances of 'us' experiencing a terrorist incident are vanishingly small; I've been in some pretty dodgy places yet my most dangerous moment came on an open stretch of road in rural Maryland (in an accident with a statistically impossible chance of survival).
There is something askew with both the sense of safety and danger when people simultaneously assume that the real risks are on the battlefield or 'over there' in Syria, Iraq or South Sudan but, also, 'they' are coming to get us here in our local neighbourhood. Yes, both/and, but perhaps not at the extremes imagined. That's no consolation to the people living in the midst of war or the families of those killed in attacks; but I personally can't live my life in constant heightened awareness of danger. I also don't make flippant assumptions about risks (either in the aforementioned dodgy places or walking home in my quiet suburb at night).
This is the psychology of terrorism; you don't have to acquire an arsenal of nuclear bombs or vast armies. All that needs doing is to subtly shift people's assumptions about safety and risk. Once you've done that, you have control over their actions and life decisions. This shift can be about one's own city or some distant place; I was reminded yesterday about a conversation I had after returning to Philadelphia from the DR Congo, "Didn't you feel really…unsafe?" Yes, The DRC is dangerous, but I felt no more unsafe than I did in Philly where I, almost every night, heard gunshots down the street. That doesn't mean I must stop engaging with life in my neighbourhood or the world.
This comes down to something I've been speaking with a friend with over the past weeks; she does work in dangerous situations involving human trafficking and the darkness of the world. But, she said it's more dangerous to ride a motor scooter in traffic in Thailand (after experiencing this firsthand…yes). If you are doing what you are destined to do; then what greater safety is there? Everything must happen as it must. There is an old saying about 'sitting in the Heart of God'; that's not a place of fear. It may be a place of dangers and risks; but dangers and risks are everywhere—and, in a sense, nowhere in particular. I should think it's more important to encounter one's full purpose in life and let that life unfold as it may (but do wear a helmet).