TITLE: More on Safety and Freedom in the Extreme AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 19, 2005 8:17 PM DESC: Hass told us about the danger of valuing safety too highly. But there is danger in valuing freedom too highly, too. ----- BODY: giving up liberty for safety In my entry on Robert Hass's keynote address, I discussed the juxtaposition of 'conservative' and 'creative', the tension between the desire to be safe and the desire to be free, between memory and change. Hass warned us against the danger inherent in seeking safety, in preserving memory, to an extreme: blindness to current reality. But he never addressed the danger inherent in seeking freedom and change to the exclusion of all else. I wrote:
There is a danger in safety, as it can blind us to the value of change, can make us fear change. This was one of the moments in which Hass surrendered to a cheap political point, but I began to think about the dangers inherent in the other side of the equation, freedom. What sort of blindness does freedom lead us to?
giving up safety for liberty During a conversation about the talk with Ryan Dixon, it hit me. The danger inherent in seeking freedom and change to an extreme untethered idealism. Instead of "Ah, the good old days!", we have, "The world would be great if only...". When we don't show proper respect to memory and safety, we become blind in a different way -- to the fact that the world can't be the way it is in our dreams, that reality precludes somehow our vision. That doesn't sound so bad, but people sometimes forget not to include other people in their ideal view. We sometimes become so convinced by our own idealism that we feel a need to project it onto others, regardless of their own desires. This sort of blindness begins to look in practice an awful lot like the blindness of overemphasizing safety and memory. Of course, when discussing creative habits, we need to be careful not to censor ourselves prematurely. As we discussed at Extravagaria, most people tend toward one extreme. They need encouragement to overcome their fears of failure and inadequacy. But that doesn't mean that we can divorce ourselves from reality, from human nature, from the limits of the world. Creativity, as Hass himself told us, thrives when it bumps into boundaries. Being creative means balancing our desire for safety and freedom. Straying too far in either way may work in the short term, but after too long in either land we lose something essential to the creative process. -----