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  • D.J. McKay

What is "Security"?

The previous blog outlined my life thus far in relationship to this thing we call “security”. The short version is this, that I have never believed in security and so have consistently rejected the efforts and sacrifices most people make in order to acquire it. Here’s why: when I lift up the lid that covers this mysterious entity and peer into the stew of hopes and expectation that simmer underneath, I’m unable to find anything substantial enough to justify the expense commonly paid for it, which is the loss of our natural freedom to explore life spontaneously in order to discover our authentic nature.

The dictionary defines “security” as (this is a summary) “freedom from danger, anxiety, doubt, and loss.” That’s interesting. Is there any outside thing that can provide these freedoms? Not in my experience. Outside things can provide the illusion of security for sure, but that’s different. Life inherently involves danger; loss is inevitable; anxiety and doubt are choices we make out of inward insecurity—and nothing in the world can change this reality.

What is meant by “security”, practically? It means a big pile of money. Back in the day, before there were banks and modern health care, when people made and grew most of what they had, “security” for most folks (I imagine) had nothing to do with money. It resided with family and community instead. A person knew that if they experienced an injury or a loss of some kind they would be supported by those nearby until they recovered, and that they would be attended to in their old age. Security in this form makes a lot of sense to me. Unlike a pile of money, which is sought as an end in itself, it was acquired simply by being a contributing member of the community. Security in that form cannot be traded; it is a gift of kindness, which is a beautiful thing and good for everyone involved, including the giver. That pile of money is not so pretty. It represents the amount of the world’s resources that are not available to others.

What can money buy that we might call “security”? The ultimate evidence of our vulnerability is the quickly approaching day of our own death—and money will never save us from this. It might stave off death for a while, and that is almost universally considered a good thing, but I’m not so sure. The other day I saw an ad of sorts from an organization dedicated to extending human life. My gut response was, “Why?” It used to be that people rarely died of old age: something else took them out first. I’m still too young to understand what it is like to be old, and so my opinion on this matter can’t be taken seriously, but it seems to me that there is something to be said for a quick death while a person still has vigor and independence. This seems especially true when the cost of extending my life into old age is that others starve while they are young.

It seems to me that what people really want from “security” is freedom from pain. In general we humans are terrified of pain, whether it is physical pain or emotional pain. Can money buy freedom from pain? It can buy drugs to mask the pain, for sure, and that is arguably an improvement over the way things used to be. It can buy distractions from and compensations for emotional pain. It cannot do away with pain, however. Pain is a natural and inevitable part of life.

What if we were not afraid of pain—would we then need “security”? I don’t think so. What if we could simply trust our adequacy to every experience Life will bring? At some point we are going to die; between then and now there is going to be a lot of pain—especially at the end, most likely. What if we’re okay with that? What if we don’t need to live to be old? Perhaps then we would be free to live fully now rather than for some imagined disaster in the future. Perhaps we could afford to be generous, and have as our ideal that everyone have what they need now (rather than the current one, that I will have what I need later). Perhaps we could learn to take real care of ourselves instead of depending upon a pile of money to do it for us.

My little dog Rhea lived to be fifteen and a half. She was a teetering old lady when her kidneys failed and she began to die. She died beautifully, with amazing courage and grace. She needed nothing beyond some fluids to keep her comfortable and the inner resources that Life equipped her with. There was no artificial “security” supporting her as she left this earth. She was secure in the Life that lived through her, and that was enough. Why do we imagine we need more?