“How different do you want to be?” –Fr. Gillick, SJ
Fr. Gillick shared this quote with the group of people I went with to the DR this summer. It is a quote that has a lot of interesting implications — but at its heart it asks one of the most fundamentally challenging things a question can. How we answer that question — not in words, but in actions, defines much of our identity.
In our experience of the day to day, we are often encumbered with the risk of the unknown. Indeed, that’s some of what defines our existence — we are faced with choices, faced with action or inaction, and we either chose to take a risk or to avoid it. Often, we settle in the comfortable, the known, the secure.
Yet, without a sense of risk, we risk de-amplifying our experience of life. The things that make risk dangerous often carry with them the threads of adventure and the possibility of joy. That’s what makes a risk a risk — it isn’t only the possibility of the dangerous, but also the possibility of the positive. It isn’t blindly rushing towards dangerous — that’s stupid. It’s moving towards the good understanding the bad.
When we take risks, we are met with new experiences. We necessarily venture a bit into the unknown, and experiencing part of that unknown will necessarily expand how we understand our world. That challenges us and motivates us — either to continue searching or to not act further. One thing we cannot negate is that risk is a part of life. And risk reminds us that human beings suffer. We don’t seek it out, but we can’t ignore it either. Instead of being afraid of it, we acknowledge it and move on.
It exposes us to higher highs and lower lows than otherwise — it amplifies our experience of life. It makes life more fully what life is — and if we do the other and chose to avoid all risk — if we de-amplify and become content and comfortable with just existing, if we stay where we feel secure — we lose the chance to experience life to the full.
That helps us to be free in a larger way. It allows us to find, in Chris Heuertz’s words, “friendship at the margins.” It puts us in uncomfortable places and makes us ask uncomfortable questions and live in an uncomfortable way.
Living the possibility and the question into reality — that’s where the deepest life is. And that’s a deep risk, with the chance at a much deeper reward. So this week, ask yourself, “How different do you want this one and only extraordinary life of yours to be?”
Then put feet to your answer.