Think of it: You’ve just created earth and sea, built the most dangerous playground in history, and you’re about to populate it with cunning delinquents with a thirst for justice. You’re considering opening a customer service department, hiring a publicist, when… What’s that? You say you’ve been wronged by volcano, fire, earthquake, struck by lightning, drowned or shipwrecked, fallen and can’t get up, and you’d like to talk with God’s attorneys? Sorry, no listing.
I’ve spent the past few weeks finishing a playhouse in the backyard for my own and the neighborhood kids. I’m flat on my back in the loft these days, screwing the ceiling joists with ½” ply. I could spend the rest of the summer sanding edges, padding corners, illuminating emergency exits, but why? Someone is going to get hurt. Likewise, someone is going to fall from the ropes and ladders I’ve strung from one of the property’s most climbable trees. (I’ve been in the crown and touched the sky; how can I deny my children such a pure joy?)
My wife and I live in a tony suburb where there’s an attorney through the woods in every direction. I suppose if I were smart, I’d hang a sign from every stick: CAUTION, RAMBLE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Better yet: I wouldn’t allow any kids to play in “my” woods. Let them play video games while the summer sun sifts morning and evening through the leaves; at least nobody will sue.
The truth stings a bit: For breaking limbs, gashing heads, and meeting sin-selling snakes in the apple tree, the world is the perfect place.
I hereby sign the waiver (what a release!) and forward it to every neighbor: I accept responsibility for anything that may happen to me or my children on the great, rocky, unmarked minefield of life. Can we be friends, now, and trust one another? For better they wreck themselves in a trusting world than live safely in an armored one.
The earth is an anonymous and randomly violent work of art, created recklessly, and blind by design to its own blisters and mudslides—“acts of God,” as even the secular lawyers and insurers still call them. But ultimately there is no assurance and there is no settlement. We ramble here at our own risk. And when we say we love the earth, what we must mean is that we accept that risk, on “good faith” (another legal phrase carried over like a honeyed antique), and treasure it, and trust it to have lessons (some soft, some hard) for us.