I think I need to recalibrate my mind in regard to danger. Through watching the news and reading newspapers I get to know about murders, muggings, stabbings, fights, prisons, burglaries, terrorism, mad people pushing innocent commuters in front of trains, plane crashes, car crashes, pot-holing accidents, cancer, dementia, strokes, diabetes and a million other things that can harm you.
Having seen and read a lot about these things, I think I have wrongly assessed my own risk in venturing out into the world. Or even just getting out of bed in the morning. After all, even that could bring on a heart attack. Getting out of bed too quickly is apparently the reason more people die early in the morning than later in the day. Or so I was once told by a Spanish doctor.
I now consider the world to be a very dangerous place. I never used to, but that’s probably because I never used to watch the news or read newspapers. They bored me. Yet it is not my head that has wrongly calculated the risks of modern life but my body. My head is quite sensible when it comes to assessing risk. It knows that the chances of me dying in a plane crash or being murdered are low. But my body won’t listen to reason. It believes that the series of atrocities that have taken place in Britain over the past 24 hours and then condensed into a 30 minute news program is an accurate representation of what takes place in every town and village in Britain on an average day.
When I think about my own life and that of my family and friends, none of us has experienced much crime, or many accidents or illnesses. So quite why my body believes the newsreader and the Daily Telegraph over the evidence of my own eyes is a bit of a mystery. But it does.
The obvious conclusion from all this is that if I were to stop watching the news and reading the papers I’m sure that I would pretty soon revert to my old belief that the world, or at least my bit of the world, is actually quite a benign and safe place to live.
Of course forewarned is forearmed, as they say, and it would be foolish to innocently waltz into some crime-ridden area late at night through a naive ignorance of what actually goes on there. Equally, I should continue to look left and right before crossing the road and I shouldn’t eat too many saturated fats (whatever they are).
Yet being forewarned is also not without its dangers. Becoming obsessed with all the bad things that could theoretically happen raises your adrenaline levels. With your fight or flight mechanism nearly constantly activated, your body soon wears itself out and your nerves fray. You will almost certainly die a decade or two before your time and that time will be filled with fear and anxiety. You will probably avoid dying at the hands of a psychopath but only at the expense of living life as though it were an obstacle course, something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
So without turning myself into the kind of person who strolls into the projects of Detroit and asks a group of hoodies for directions, I think it’s time for me to stop reading about crime and watching the news. In fact, I will avoid anything that gives my fretful body a distorted view of the dangers of this world.