Local opinion columnists

Better to live without fear

Do you have concerns about dying in a terrorist attack? Are you afraid of flying? How about sharks or grizzlies? Every year there are grizzly attacks – and a swimmer off California was recently bitten by a large shark.

Are you afraid that Bruce the Great White or a Yellowstone grizzly bear is going to gobble you for a snack? When you go to a movie theater, do you fear being killed by an “assault rifle” like the one used in the Aurora, Colo. shooting?

I can relate to airplane fears. One time I was flying in a poorly maintained Soviet-made two-engine turboprop going from Samarkand to Bukhara, Uzbekistan. It was dusk, and we were flying through a thunderstorm. The plane did not have many instruments, so the pilot had to circle and search for the airport before we ran out of fuel (if one would call it an airport).

Statistically there is one airline fatality for every 10 billion passenger miles in America. So until you have flown a billion miles (about 4 million flights between Casper and Denver) you probably should not be too concerned.

One out of 1.2 million airplane flights are involved in some kind of accident, and of those involved in an accident many are not fatal. Ninety-six percentage of people survive plane crashes. Remember “Miracle on the Hudson,” when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his airplane in the Hudson River? The passengers and crew made it out alive.

Statistically you are more likely to die in an airport terminal than on an airplane, from such things as a heart attack (perhaps due to worry about flying).

If these statistics do not ease your fears, then keep in mind that about 4 out of 5 plane accidents occur during the first three minutes or the final eight minutes of a flight. So relax in the terminal. Do not worry until you are on the tarmac and ready to taxi. Once the plane levels out at its appointed altitude, relax again, until the plane starts its descent to land. Then you can cross your fingers and say a little prayer.

In comparison, there are five times as many deaths per passenger mile on buses and trains than airplanes. You are 70 times more likely to die in your car, than on an airplane.

Do you fear sharks? You have a 1 in 4 million chance of being killed by a shark.

How about assault rifles? The U.S. Justice Department reported that a total of 323 murders were committed by rifles (all rifles not just assault rifles) in 2011. This compares to 496 murders committed by blunt force trauma (hammers and clubs). Maybe we need to register hammers and baseball bats.

Are you afraid of dying at the hands of terrorists? The odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack are about 1 in 20 million, less chance than dying from surgery complications or from a lightning strike.

It’s always the one you don’t see that gets you. Big plastic coupon dispensers stick out into the grocery aisle guarding the cereal. Have you ever been wacked in the head by an eye-level coupon dispenser when you are looking for Corn Flakes? Or why do they put so much garbage in the grocery aisles? You go around the corner with the shopping cart, and “boom,” you hit a baked beans display in the aisle, sending the cans rolling.

It is always the one you don’t see that gets you. It reminds me of wearing a hard hat in the oil refinery or gas plant. Being tall already, the couple of inches of added height from the hard hat meant I was always smacking my head on an overhead pipe.

The people who founded our great nation were seemingly little concerned about the dangers they faced to find freedom. Of the little more than 100 Pilgrims who set sail for the American colonies, almost half died during their first winter in the New World. William Bradford said of this, “It is not with us as with other men whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again.”

So don’t worry about the dangers of life. Fools go where angels fear to tread – but those led by their better angels do not need to worry about foolish fears. God has every hair on your head numbered.

Be bold with your life, do not fear, and do not worry. It is better to spend your life fearlessly than to worry about the dangers each of us face.

Dan Molyneux is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairfield. Reach him by email at [email protected]

The Rev. Dan Molyneux


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