I often think, "What could go wrong, and how might one prevent it from going wrong?" Sometimes it's useful to think this way, but it's also exhausting, and I admit it does tend to take the fun out of things.
In the Catholic mass now, the priest tends to interrupt the Lord's Prayer right after "deliver us from evil," and the priest in our parish says, "deliver us, Lord, from all our useless fears," and then we finish with "for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever." That "useless fears" phrase is interesting. He's right, of course; most of our fears are useless. At the same time, I assume Evolution selected "fear" for a reason, and as far as I know, the Catholic Church has no "issues" with the concept of Evolution. Sometimes caution, thinking ahead, and worry turn out to be useful--in the short run, at least, if not on the scale of kingdom, power, and glory. I sure wish Bush had been more cautious about going to war, for example.
My good friend and colleague, the late Wendy Bishop, loved the term "safety buffalo," for some reason, and she agreed with my wife that the term fit me. Wendy and I shared some Scandinavian ethnicity, and we agreed that Swedes and Norwegians may not see the glass as half-empty, but they routinely imagine situations in which the glass breaks and becomes a dangerous, jagged shard.
Here is my poem about the imaginary safety buffalo, and I hope Wendy is smiling somewhere in a place well beyond our world of fears. The poem is dedicated to all worriers out there. May you get a good night's sleep!
The Safety Buffalo
The Safety Buffalo lowers
his head and horns, considers
everything that could go wrong.
His whole head’s covered
with thick hide and hair. Beneath
these lies bone. Beneath bone
lies a bison-brain recalling well
how good things can go wrong.
The Safety Buffalo has seen
the apocalypse of prairie lightning,
heard trees explode in an ice-storm,
smelled diesel and blood
when a metal box full of humans
went spinning off that gray
line into stones. The Safety
Buffalo worries for the herd,
steps cautiously, snorts
at how carefree the antelope is,
and the goose. Death
is always loose on the prairie.
This the Safety Buffalo knows.