Every month I have to play a game called "Rent."
Rent is my least favorite game in the world.
The rules are simple enough; do things you may or may not like doing so that you're not homeless. This can be a tough game to play if you don't have a college education, if you're attempting to do something creative, or if you're attempting to evade the service industry like the plague on your soul it seems to be. Rent is one of maybe a dozen games that I play on a daily basis.
This game sucks, like most of the games we have to play in society; reality is an MMO. (Society's for nerds!) Generations before us didn't question the game. No one really knew why they were playing it, or "Finder's Keepers: Marriage Edition", or any of the other ones we're brought into; so far as they knew, that's all that existed. We're coaxed into it pretty young, when we learn about different jobs and how grown up lives work. We're given the rules for the games by our parents and other adult role models.
Even with that early introduction, the disconnect starts surprisingly early. Our little hearts and brains get set on becoming the world's first Astronaut President who lives in an amusement park. As we grow up, we learn that the generations before us didn't pick accountant or data entry clerk over Astronaut President. Suddenly, we find out that we're not that special, jobs are limited, and no matter what job we pick, we have to play Rent, and ruling the country from space is not as lucrative as we thought.
Reality phases out the nonsense. We get better at games like Rent instead of games like Astronaut President because ambition takes a back seat to practicality. There's fewer players in the latter, so it's not a game we can continue to play if we want to play with other people. Eventually, we learn that our dreams are impractical, because we have more important things to do, like play "Rent", "Finder's Keepers", or "Oh My God I Am Not Helping The Population Crisis At All By Eating This Cake, Am I?" But aren't those games also impractical nonsense? Maybe, but they're so huge that often we have no choice except to play them.
These games form our society. If you want to participate, you have to play. You're supposed to get a decent job, get a decent life partner, settle down and keep this human race/economy/game perpetuating. The games we play as adults have higher consequences than winning or losing; these are blood sports. We have to survive, and adhering to the social structure in place not only ensures our survival but how comfortable that survival is. We spend a lot of time trying to make sure our lives are optimal.
Disclaimer, This is partially where my privilege comes in. I'm a girl and have the fortune of being one that people like to take care of. That advantage means I'm allowed to swim in the meaningless longer than most people and survive. Many people have to emerge from swampy nonsense in order to avoid being eaten by social monsters like Poverty, Bills, Class and so on. The fact that I can write this is because I don't have to participate, so this observation comes with the understanding that rejecting safety is not inherently feasible for everyone; this isn't an idea, it's an ideal.
If you're fortunate, you're introduced to the game with a few advantages. Some of us are introduced to the world with elbow pads and the love of our parents. There's financial support when we need it. When it's our turn to play, we go in trusting that it will go well. I've heard that this does nothing to prepare you for the hard knocks of life, but in that sense I disagree. Your cushions will break your fall. Having a community and a family to support you will help nurture your decisions and help you recover from things that go wrong. Having support can help you push further and help you go higher; but there is a danger to keeping safe.
If I were to name a deadly sin, Sloth, would be the ultimate, beyond all others. A society that has no deity seems dangerously steeped in it. Turns out you don't have to believe in God to believe in sin. Sloth is fear and laziness. It's spiritual complacency. It's a rejection of risk, and if you never risk, if you remain comfortable in all facets of your life, you will never need to change. Despite our craving for homeostasis, change is an inevitability; we are flux critters.
Few of us play our social games to win, most of us play to be comfortable. There are so many people who are terrified and uncomfortable in their daily lives. They assume that new experiences will hurt them. Instead of pushing, we dig our heels down and settle in, because this spot's comparably better than any other and we know we have the stamina to maintain it. If you don't push, whatever it is that makes you human will begin to atrophy.
We mistake safety with balance, and we often misinterpret balance as overcoming the odds. Balance is understanding that life is trial by fire, but not exclusively so. Safety means avoiding the flames. I dislike the term balance because frequently people refer to it in a way of equal complacency; they push themselves so much that they refuse to recover. That kind of drive is a different form of sloth. You'll work, be it your job, or relationship, until it's impossible for you to do anything else. That way of thinking means you'll never be able to learn the value of breathing, you'll never be able to visit your internal universe, and if you never tend to that world, it will decay.
Our fear of germs led to vaccines, but protecting ourselves from them also led to superbacteria. Industrialized society plays it safe, both for ourselves and other people. We think we're doing the right thing and ignoring when that isn't true. If you are happy and you don't push for anything greater, you have nothing to contribute, and in a way, you become expendable. People know how to live your happy, complacent life.
We seek comfort, bliss. We want to minimize pain and damage, and rightly so, those things suck. The damaged are not the strong; they are the wounded and can be picked off. There is nothing impractical about wanting to live your life comfortably, except for that it will make you the exact opposite. We yearn for homeostasis; we want to be happy but in order to be happy, we need our instability.
This is also why I don't meditate, by the way. Sadness, Fear and Anger are pushers. Maybe it helps people with different monsters in their head, but I quite like mine and I don't mind letting them off the leash every once in awhile. I don't seek bliss or happiness, because reaching those treads dangerously on complacency. I spend enough time in the world to get into uncomfortable situations and I need to be able to vocalize it in order for it to get better.
I also know better than to indulge my dark side. There's an atrophy in succumbing to your demons, listening only to your sadness or anger. There's a difference between letting your negative emotions guide you and rule you, and admittedly that difference is razor thin.
The dangers to taking risks are more obvious but they're also a lot more nuanced. Remaining on the fringes is not sustainable, and I know that. If you're going to take part at all, you have to have some integration into society. You can't live your life in a way that wouldn't be sustainable to everyone; that's selfish in the bad way. It's one thing to take care of yourself, it's another to assume that by doing so you shouldn't try anything new.
I don't know what your life is like, you darling, but you can't sit still in it. We aren't plants, we don't grow roots and we'd be hard pressed to understand them if we started to. You have to move, you have to crash. If you push yourself, internally or externally, you are going to get hurt. That's not a question of if, only when. If you choose to stay where you are, you are going to wither, and eventually, if you should try to leave, you'll find yourself too weak to.
Don't choose to be a character in the social game. You are the game. The sure fire way to lose is by getting too comfortable.