I live just up the highway from where that lunatic ran down bikers and runners in Manhattan yesterday.
Just the day before I was running that path at around the same time, and yesterday I was crossing it about when the incident occurred.
That got me thinking about what you do with these situations.
Give Them The Attention They Deserve
I pay little attention to the media machine that will turn this latest lunatic into a celebrity.
We most dishonor the victims when we “honor” the disease, and I care to know as much about him as I know about any ant crawling cracks in the pavement.
Why care what his name is? Why care why he thinks he did it? Why care how “surprised” people in his life will be?
Last night I spent an hour sitting in meditation honoring the victims and dreaming of a better world, and today I’m focused on “reality.”
I’m not going to concoct a story about how lucky I was, or how this could happen to any of us, or how much of a threat these parasites are.
I was no closer to death here than I am every day of my life.
Last year alone 229 people were killed in car crashes in Manhattan, and we have 4 times the risk of dying in a heatwave than from those swine.
All evidence suggests that we are exterminating their threat from our world, and running over innocent people with a van is hardly the work of a terrorist mastermind.
We all recognize that the physical threat from these lunatics is minor, but the threat from their terror is not.
Disrupting Our Way of Life
By definition, terrorists don’t wage war physically, but mentally.
They of course lack the wherewithal to take on a skilled fighting force, so they carry out attacks on innocent people seeking to disrupt our way of life.
At their fifth-grade level of thinking, Manhattan is a bastion for freedom, a powerful symbol of what America stands for, and by spreading their fear here, they win.
But they only win when we legitimize their madness by promoting their terror. When we talk about them in fear. When they get inside our heads and affect our thoughts and behaviors.
We live in a society where we assume we can walk down the street without someone coming at us with a gun, knife, or van and their actions disrupt our most basic sense of safety.
Hence, in protecting ourselves from terror, we must begin there.
Protect Your Mind
We tune into their bad behavior because it’s broadcast all around us, and because it triggers our most base fears.
The fear mechanism in the brain is triggered by uncertainty, and each time one of these loonies does their little public display of terrible behavior, they remind us of all the things we can’t control in our lives.
Like driving down the road scared of every car that passes on the other side of that thin broken line, we begin to question the very tenets of our society, and see our lives as more fragile.
But when we accept that death is stalking us every day of our life—a great book to read on death—and that nearly every single aspect of our life is outside our control, we recognize the stupidity in fixating on the things that might end us, and get focused on really truly living while we’re alive.
We will never eradicate the worst elements from our society, but we can eradicate them from our heads by giving them the scant attention they deserve.
Protect Yourself by Preparing
How do you prepare yourself and your family to deal with a situation like this?
You want to have backup plans in place for what to do in a full-scale crisis like 9/11, but you can’t prepare yourself for one of these types of threats in the same way you can’t prepare yourself for a car or plane crash. (or shooter from a distance)
The best you can do is to imagine that in situations of grave threat that your brain and body will do exactly what they are built to do—survive.
Few of us will ever train ourselves to deal with serious physical threats from multiple attackers with weapons—although I would suggest we all want these skills—and not even Bruce Lee could defend himself against a weaponized vehicle.
But you can train yourself to remain calm and deliberate in EVERY crisis, and know that if the worst-case scenario happens you will automatically react the same way.
The Best Physical Protection
The one specific change that I made from this idiot was to get serious about my situational awareness.
In every school of self-protection and threat neutralization—this is a book worth reading—the starting point is to do everything you can to remain fully aware of your environment.
And that’s where I failed.
The day before I was running down that path with my noise-cancelling headphones on completely oblivious to what threats might come from behind me.
For years I’ve trained my situational awareness, but yesterday I was reminded that I had become lazy and complacent.
All day every day we are walking with our heads down looking at our devices, or talking on the phone unaware of what’s around us, or so in our own heads that we aren’t even present in this moment.
It doesn’t need to be a lunatic in a van. If a skateboard or bike or something else is coming at you, your first line of defense is to see the threat and get out of the way.
This doesn’t require any special skill or training, only the willingness to stop all those other distractions and focus on what’s around you.