The Orion

Obsession with safety saps fun, meaning from life

William Rein

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Illustration by Miles Huffman

Is everything too safe? That might strike many as ludicrous, human life being as precious as it is.

Yet there are fire precautions in nearly every building on campus. Students get ticketed for skateboarding or biking on campus, even though only negligent jerks would get hit or hit someone. On public transport, there’s half as many safety exits as there are passengers.

Safety is overrated.

Many things created for safety end up being intrusive and unnecessary anyway (throw in unconstitutional with the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping). People live in an era in which they expect surveillance on every street, in every hallway, in every public or private building.

Safety has taken the fun out of the riskier facets of life, crowding the aisles and prohibiting everything.

I guess it brought us bungee jumping and skydiving, but safety (in the form of modern medicine, technological advancement and social restrictions) extended our lives into preposterously long events that lose their meaning.

Whatever happened to death by plague? Or being shot and getting a fatal infection? Or our natural predators? Bring “Final Destination” back.

We can never promote death because it’s unethical. We can, however, change our attitude toward it. We are supposed to die, and it certainly feels like Darwinism and “let nature take its course” are being replaced by “keep everybody alive for as long as possible — forever.”

It just feels too hard to die. That teenage invincibility complex I’m blessed with is magnified tenfold by the fact I’m 80-95 percent likely to survive a gunshot. Or 95 percent likely to survive drinking large amounts of alcohol.

Or 99 percent likely to survive a plague. Or 99.99 percent likely to survive being possessed by Satan.

I’ve had my fair share of close encounters. A car accident straight out of “The Fast and the Furious” when I was 6 years old. A drug overdose when I was 16. I’m not blind to the ultimate entropic nature of things, one that inevitably ends with me getting shot by my roommate after using all his stuff.

Or being dragged into The Orion basement by the copy editors, seeking revenge for the arthritis they got from editing the profanity out of my columns.

Death is always on the horizon, and it should be — it needs to be. Because although it’s a common mantra that death can come at any moment (hug your friends, kiss your wife), in comparison to the dawn of human civilization, we’re practically invincible.

This isn’t to belittle some of human life’s more stubborn enemies, like cancer or genetic defects. And it isn’t to say death can’t be tragic.

Death is just death. And all the guardrails in the world won’t change that.

Anyway, this is all going to be superironic if I die in a few years. But my chances of survival are pretty damn high. Until I sleep in my roommate’s bed again.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.

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Obsession with safety saps fun, meaning from life