In the past month I purchased a motorcycle and an easy chair. Both can be deadly.
I traded my older motorcycle for a slightly newer one with less mileage. It’s also more nimble at slow speed and easier to handle, but in reality it’s not any safer than the one I sold. Riding a motorcycle is risky and dangerous, but also cathartic, enjoyable, and a singularly rewarding travel experience. However, it’s safe to say that the singular travel experience can become a singular life-ending event as well. Riding a motorcycle is a risky venture.
I bought the easy chair to put in my office. (Enough of my children left home for me to regain some space for my own office.) The easy chair isn’t anything fancy but it is comfortable, and with a pull on a lever I can put myself into an almost horizontal position that supports my back and legs. It’s great for reading, typing on my computer, or taking a catnap. However, too much time in the easy chair can sap the energy from life and make a person lethargic and sedentary with one foot in the grave. The easy chair requires no risk.
If I could chose how to die, I would like to pass from this world to the next sitting in an easy chair at home surrounded by loving family and friends wishing me well on the next phase of my journey. It seems like the most comforting way to exit this mortal existence. That perfect ending to a fulfilling life isn’t possible without risk. Unless I “ride the motorcycle” I will never get to that easy chair.
Life is a paradox. If we choose the easy path without risk we are not really living. If we choose the easy chair our life is wasted in ease. Without the dangerous journey there is no satisfying destination. Without the difficulty of the task there is no pride in accomplishment. Without the hardship of trial there is no personal growth. Life is inherently risky. If we wish to truly live we must accept risk, but if we choose too much risk we place little value on life. Life is a balancing act of risk, a balance between the motorcycle and the easy chair.
Nothing is riskier than raising a family. When you decide to become a parent (biologically or otherwise) you shout to the world, “I will be responsible for this life! I will feed, clothe, and teach this infant. I will protect and serve this child. I will tolerate, love and correct this adolescent. I will mentor and guide this young adult.”
What greater risk can you take on than choosing parental responsibility? So much can go wrong. So much is out of your control. So much can end badly. Choosing to be a parent is choosing the motorcycle instead of the easy chair of life. You suit up with helmet, boots, and jacket to mitigate the risk, but no matter how many safety protections you put in place, parenting is still a dangerous journey. Parenting is the ultimate risk, but it delivers the ultimate reward.
My father is nearing the end of his mortal journey and is confined to the hospital bed, the wheelchair, and the dreaded easy chair. He eats puree of chicken and drinks through a straw. The strong man who once provided and cared for his family, is now unable to care for himself. Pictures of family and friends adorn the walls of his room. Visitors frequent his bedside to comfort and care for him.
He arrived at his health-induced confinement by wearing his body out in the service of his family, combined with some dereliction of maintenance. As a younger man he ignored the pain of injury in order to be a good provider. Feeling duty bound, he worked when he should have rested. Committed to his role as a parent, he pushed himself when his body needed to heal. Accepting the risk of parenthood, he kept moving when his health required a moment in the easy chair. He risked it all to raise ten children, and is now rewarded with the easy chair surrounded by loving family, even if they aren’t always present. He chose the risky path of parenthood. He chose the motorcycle over the easy chair.