I’ve never been all that much of a risk-taker, unless you count the nearly daily visits I made to a certain taqueria back in the mid-‘90s. Now that we’re in the middle of an economic mess that has been blamed on so much individual and institutional recklessness, you might think that some of us cautious types would feel a little vindication. But I’m not ready to start celebrating the virtues of uptight prudence. The problem with caution is that it’s not very much fun. No one one knows this better than a cautious person. When my second-grader started riding his bike to school solo a few weeks ago, I had to fight the urge to ride along at a distance behind him, shouting not-so-helpful reminders like, “Stay to the right!”
Lane Wallace, writing on The Atlantic’s site, under the headline “A Risk-Averse Nation?” quotes The New York Times’ David Sanger: “The entire mood of the country has swung from taking wild risks to taking no risk.” He worries that this “could be bad for the country.” Wallace picks up on the notion and points out that NASA, the Wright Brothers, and Google, to name a few, would never have gotten off the ground without some tolerance for risk. Wallace’s bio says she’s an adventure writer, pilot and “honorary member of the United States Air Force Wild Weasels.” I’m pretty sure that means that she’s a little more comfortable with risk that I am. But, no problem, I’m willing to do my part. So I hereby resolve not to trail my kid on his way to school, not to hover, not to overprotect. Consider it my small, patriotic part in helping to restore the American spirit of bold, adventuresome risk-taking.