I don’t know how many of you have seen or even remember the movie Marathon Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier.
Either way, in the film there’s this very famous line which Laurence Olivier’s character (Dr Szell) asks repeatedly of Dustin Hoffman’s character (Babe), namely “is it safe?”.
In one particular scene, the line is made all the more menacing due to the fact Dr Szell (a fugitive Nazi war criminal) asks his question while torturing Babe by drilling into his teeth with a dentist’s drill. (FYI The information Dr Szell wishes to extract relates to the recovery of a large cache of diamonds).
However, it’s not my intention to get bogged down by explaining the various ins and outs of the film’s plot at this stage.
Rather, instead, I simply wanted to comment on how I have personally adapted the character of Dr Szell, in my own life, to symbolize — what I like to call — my inner safety Nazi.
To my mind, this inner figure, then, is the one who is constantly asking me if what I’m about to do is safe. But it’s never any actual real threat or risk that my inner safety Nazi challenges me about. No, it’s always to do with those things that are best defined as mental torments. As opposed to physical dangers per se, you understand.
“Is it safe to eat bacon on the day it has reached its use-by-date?” I might hear my inner safety Nazi say of a morning, as I peer into the fridge, looking for suitable breakfast items.
Or, just as likely, “Is it safe to post that blog article you haven’t spell-checked for the fifteenth time?”
In response to which I find myself crying out, more and more. “Aargh! Go to hell, you damn safety Nazi!”
It’s seems kind of pathetic, I know. But if left unchecked, my inner safety Nazi’s neurotic commentary would otherwise soon cripple my confidence to take any kind of action whatsoever in my life.
Because you know what, life is ultimately a risky business. Nothing is 100 per cent perfectly safe. Our lives teeter between fulfillment and failure with every decision we make.
So maybe we shouldn’t be asking ourselves “is it safe” in relation to those things that cause us torment, but rather to ask “is it sane to stress so much about the small stuff?”.
Well, is it?