Before I begin going into the topic of this post, I would like to straighten out a few details regarding the title. The plural form of ‘octopus’ is actually ‘octopuses’. It is the most common form and is the most widely accepted. ‘Octopi’ is objectionable in some cases and is not always listed as being a correct plural form. However, I do prefer the way this title rolls off the tongue, despite the possibility of it being incorrect. Enough of this rambling, now into the post…
Take a good look at the things around you. What do you see? Cars have 5-star safety ratings, we are trying to eliminate global terrorism, there are warning labels on almost every food, playgrounds are to be removed from some schools, that little bump in the sidewalk is painted yellow. There are so many things out there to try to minimize the risk that we are exposed to every day. Now imagine these things in nature. On your hike through the woods, there are fences on the sides of the trails to keep creatures out, roots and rocks are painted bright colours or removed completely, signs warn you of what might be unexpected around the next bend in the trail. It all sounds a little ridiculous, but that is what our society is moving towards. We try to minimize the risk that we are exposed to in almost every way. We are striving for perfection.
Looking at nature, we are going at all of this the wrong way. Adaptation by organisms, such as the octopus, carry no goal of perfection. Trying to eliminate risk in our lives is like trying to eliminate predation in nature. It is a bit of a ridiculous concept. The relationships that have developed in nature over the last millions of years come from adaptations to hostile interactions. They have created symbiotic relationships that work! The octopus is a good example. It has multiple solutions to deal with the problems that it is faced with. For the octopus, when there is trouble, there is no one right way to deal with it. The octopus expects the unexpected!
This exposure to risk has the possibility to be dangerous. However, it keeps us alive, makes us think for ourselves, helps us to deal with everyday problems and is what makes being human exciting. For all of us big kids, we grew up with this exposure to risk in our lives. I know that I occasionally got hurt, but that is how I learned about the world. It was all trial and error. I think that this exposure to natural risk has made me into a well-rounded individual. I feel I can make solid decisions in all aspect of my life. What will things be like without that exposure to natural spaces and risk? Striving to perfect our environment is taking away from a lot of the things that we all grew up with. Youth now have a lot less exposure to a lot of the things we remember about being a kid. I will give you a quote from a blog entry about how children should exercise. It has multiple meanings and we can all take learning from it:
“Kids do dangerous things as a rule. They ride skateboards and make jumps. They climb trees and fall from them – sometimes on purpose to “see what happens.” They play football, get in scuffles, and make hairpin turns at breakneck speeds while dribbling a ball (with either hands or feet). Sports are dangerous, sure, but so is just about anything you do involving your body and the laws of physics. Let them figure it out. You’ll be there if something goes wrong.”
I say to embrace risk in your life and let others do the same. Let us stop trying to perfect our world. It just cannot be done. Instead, let us all learn to live with the risks we are faced with. Everything from finances and work to exercise and play. Take from the octopus, and have multiple solutions to our problems. I like to embrace risk in my life. It is exciting, and is how nature has dealt with problems for millions of years.
April is G.O. month. What does that mean? I think you should just G.O.! (For those of you who don’t want to click on this link, it stands for ‘Get Outside’). Here are some ideas to get started:
- Start a garden
- Organize a neighbourhood clean-up
- Join a walking/running group
- Host a BBQ
- Help out at a local farm
- Volunteer for a nature group
- Go camping (Not RVing)
- Play in the mud!
Now for this week’s idea: Stop avoiding things that may seem a little dangerous, and do something ‘risky’! Remember to emulate octopi (or octopuses). Stop trying to eliminate risk in your life and learn to live with it. It will make things more exciting as well as making life easier. Risk cannot be eliminated and, in learning from one of the most well-adapted organisms on this planet, don’t try to.
Don’t forget to share your thoughts on how you live with risk in the comments section below!