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Dangerous Done Well Monday : What's The Opposite of Recklessness?

Dangerous (Fall 2013)Sean Murray

The premise of Dangerous Done Well is: through disciplined practice of a Risk Mitigation System, kids can safely explore ideas that conventional wisdom has deemed "too dangerous".

The Risk Mitigation system leans heavily on reason, logic, research, and close observation of simulated dangerous simulations. Making good decisions regarding danger is, we argue, a craft and a science. The cornerstones of those good decisions are: information and reason.

We had thought that information and reason had only one enemy: recklessness. Today we met another: paranoia.

The propane, nozzle and sparker sit unused. They would remain unused for most of the session

During Stage 2 of our Risk mitigation System, we discovered a warning of of carbon monoxide poisoning on the tank. (Burning propane creates CO. If you've ever used a gas grill or stove, you've inhaled CO). 

The idea of poisoning ourselves with an invisible, odorless gas (rightly) scared the bejeesus out of some kids. So, we researched. We found that we would have plenty of warning signs (headache, dizziness) before anything more serious. We learned that it would take several hours of intense exposure to even generate a slight headache. We learned that our space was far beyond the volume and ventilation needed to safely use the torch. We shared experiences of safely using propane, and even the very torches we were researching.  

We found no reason to fear the amount of CO that would be released. But it was too late. Fear without reason--paranoia--had set in.

Paranoia and recklessness are two poles of the same spectrum (uninformed, irrational decision-making). Recklessness will always get more attention than paranoia, and rightly so--paranoia won't lead us to jump a bicycle off the roof, or jam a fork into a wall outlet.

But it's worth considering paranoia, and the experiences that this less-spectacular, more subtle form of irrationality might cost us.


The next day, we toasted marshmallows using the very same propane torch. Everyone was perfectly safe. The marshmallows were delicious.

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