Equations to Live By

From the “Risk of Faith” exhibit at Christian Theological Seminary May 31 – June 7, 2013. “But the pieces remember,” multimedia - ceramic and acrylic on wood, by Callie J. Smith

From the “Risk of Faith” exhibit at Christian Theological Seminary May 31 – June 7, 2013. “But the pieces remember,” multimedia – ceramic and acrylic on wood, by Callie J. Smith

By Callie J. Smith, Studio Ninety-Six

Have you seen the equation for risk based on probability and loss? It goes something like this:

Risk = Probability of event × Size of loss

It’s fine as far as equations go, but I don’t like it.

I’m not a statistician, mind you. Nor am I a researcher. I have no qualifications from which to argue this equation’s merits. I simply read it and . . . that’s it. No reaction. It leaves me cold. And while it’s okay to feel nothing in response to a concept like velocity or surface area, risk is another matter. Risk is something I feel. I think I’m not alone in that.

“Of course the things we have (or lose) faith in can hit us at our deepest places. Of course the risky decisions echo across every part of our lives.”

After working with the Spirit & Place Festival on the inaugural Signature Series event “Living Into the Edge” back in April, we at Studio Ninety-Six posted a call for art connected to the twin themes of risk and faith. We didn’t know what to expect, but the response was enthusiastic. We began receiving music, film, language and visual art submissions from around the city representing a broad range of styles and an even broader range of perspectives on what risk and faith mean. Many pieces were downright visceral – ecstasy and brokenness, anticipation and grief. It made sense. Of course the things we have (or lose) faith in can hit us at our deepest places. Of course the risky decisions echo across every part of our lives.

I look forward to this 18th year of the Spirit & Place Festival (Nov 1 – Nov 10, 2013) and its exploration of RISK for the chance to have so many diverse people and perspectives engaging topics that touch us so deeply. Event probabilities will come into play, and they may even be multiplied by the size of anticipated loss. But won’t we be multiplying that by depth of fear, too? Won’t some be dividing that by intensity of dreams and abundance of possibility? Multiplying it all by uncertainty-related anxiety?

I’m only half-joking here. What risk equation do you live by?

Callie J. Smith works with the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary and co-directs Studio Ninety-Six, a worship arts and design community based in Indianapolis.

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