Bulletproof and Perfect in Safety
One of the messages of Christmas in the Western world is that of vulnerability. The story of Christmas and the many things that contradict the narratives of kingship, power, dominion and certainty make the story of a human baby in a feedbox at the back of a pub so interesting. The Christmas story is also a story of engagement, that despite frailty and uncertainty, we are encouraged to engage in life not fear in living it. As Brene Brown (2012)says in Daring Greatly:
“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make”.
This week I went to the ‘In the Flesh’ exhibition in Canberra at the National Portrait Gallery. If you get a chance to see the exhibition it is worth the trip to the Nations capital. The exhibition is about the confronting themes of: intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance. The exhibition features the work of the exhibition features Jan Nelson, Natasha Bieniek, Patricia Piccinini, Juan Ford, Petrina Hicks, Ron Mueck, Yanni Floros, Sam Jinks, Michael Peck and Robin Eley. You can read more about the exhibition here. Although all the silicon figures are on public display, I have refrained from putting many of the pictures I took up here because they are so confronting.
The figures are made of silicon on aluminium and are so life-like, unfortunately you don’t feel the power of this exhibition by the photos, nothing like being in the present. So, just to give an idea, here are a few of the exhibits.
<p><a href="https://j9c6v4m6.rocketcdn.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/clip_image005.gif"><img title="clip_image005" style="border-top: 0px; border-right: 0px; background-image: none; border-bottom: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px" border="0" alt="clip_image005" src="https://j9c6v4m6.rocketcdn.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/clip_image005_thumb.gif" width="393" height="244" /></a><a href="https://j9c6v4m6.rocketcdn.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/clip_image007.jpg"></a></p> <p> </p> <p>So what has any of this to do with risk and safety? Isn’t it strange that so many humanists in safety normalize the quest for divinity (symbolized in zero) and deny fallibility yet, scoff at the nature of other faith-based thinking that accepts vulnerability as something to be admired. If risk is about uncertainty, what is all this fear of vulnerability about? Why all this blaming of people who don’t match up to zero? Why all this perfectionist talk and quest for absolutes? Why not just be silent about it and get on with real life? Poor little talkative safety on a quest to end all suffering and harm in the world, good luck. Poor talkative safety, happy to sacrifice relationships and engagement for a number and fear. Poor talkative safety, happy to make safety a choice and ‘all accidents are preventable’. </p> <p>When you stand in front of Ron Mueck’s work in particular you are confronted with the reality of human vulnerability and all that is wonderful and mysterious about being human. Vulnerability is not fatalism, we don’t need some binary semi-religious mindset to infiltrate our thinking in this matter, nor do we need denial of all the learning that comes with fallibility. Rather, we enhance resilience and empathy through identity with others, just as zero enhances dominance and perfection over others. We don’t need to talk about ‘human factors’ when we really mean systems, or humans in a system. We should rather celebrate what it is to be human rather than quest for the divine, that’s what it means to be ‘In the Flesh’.