Last weekend I was on a hike with my five-year-old when we came across a river. There was a make-shift bridge made from a fallen tree. My son was capable of walking across the log, but with a river beneath, I was uncomfortable with the risk. I held his hand, and we crossed it together.
Later that night, around a campfire, my brother and I debated the necessity of risk tolerance for parents with young kids.
I protected my son from what I deemed to be an unacceptable risk - but in exchange, I robbed him of two potential opportunities:
Building the confidence of successfully crossing the bridge by himself
Learning the consequences of falling into a river
It might seem trivial - or my actions obvious - but I felt this was an important analogy for life preparedness.
Eventually, my son will reach another “bridge,” and I won’t be there. He will either lean on life experience, weigh the consequences, gauge his confidence and make a decision - or - having never gotten the opportunity to calculate the above, he will find the bridge an unacceptable threat and demand it be removed.
We see a lot of that these days…
It is the most challenging thing in the world to allow our children to take unnecessary risks, but in the absence of this, a generation emerges that is ill-prepared for the world, believing it to be safe.
Kick a Dog; You Might Get Bit
Nothing in the natural world is static - or, therefore, predictable and safe.
Yesterday I saw a clip of an online comedian taking selfies with other people's supercars in downtown Miami - seeing how far he could push his luck, pretending the car was his.
In the last clip, he actually sat down on the hood of someone’s Lamborghini and began filming commentary. The owner of the car got out and immediately started throwing punches. It didn't end well for the comedian. The comments beneath the video raged about toxic masculinity and the unacceptable response of the car owner.
And maybe he took it too far - or maybe, if you sit your butt down on a stranger's $500K piece of private property, you need to be prepared for the consequences.
The consequences might be that the owner gets out, laughs and gives you a hi-five.
The consequences might be that the owner shakes his head, honks his horn and pulls the car away.
And the consequence might be that the owner comes out swinging.
My point is this - the reaction from the man taking the selfie, from his camera crew that rushed out to stop the altercation and from the hundreds of comments beneath the post was outrage - they all seemed to agree that the world owed this man safety - regardless of his actions.
But there are consequences to actions - and humans are unpredictable.
Maybe… if you decide to make fun of someone's wife, right in front of him - and right in front of her - while on stage in front of thousands of people - you might get punched in the mouth. Maybe that is an entirely realistic expectation. I may not agree with the action, but I also don’t agree with floods or forest fires, yet they tend to occur regardless. We can surround ourselves with concrete and plastic, but we still live in the wilderness.
I would love to live in a world completely void of physical violence. But I also love myself for the wild animal that I am. To deny our wildness is to live in a make-believe world. The thrill of life is its unpredictable nature.
But let me be clear - I don’t support reactive violence whatsoever - so let me spin this around…
In traditional Lakota culture, there is a role known as the Heyókȟa - the sacred clown. The role of the Heyókȟa is to poke fun at everything - and everyone. Through comedy and satire, they ask provocative questions and say the things that others are afraid to say. They mirror the behaviour of their peers, forcing them to examine their doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses.
The purpose of the Heyókȟa is to prevent people from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are. They are constantly stress-testing the group's core beliefs and shining a light on their insecurities.
And as the name reflects, the Heyókȟa is sacred - and cannot be cancelled for picking the wrong target…
The Hopi tribe has a similar role known as the Tsuku. Hopi leaders were known to temper their egos for fear of becoming a target of the Tsuku.
The sacred clowns’ use of humour would reduce inter-society violence, conflict and division. It would also improve the innovation and evolution of the tribe by separating people from their ideas. Nothing was off limits - everything known and believed was eligible for mockery - forcing people to understand that all ideas are transitory and should never define a person or a people.
We need sacred clowns. We need consequences. We can change our expectations of the world, but not the nature of it.
Have an epic Sunday,