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Sometimes the most mundane thing is what puts us in danger

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Copper Face Jacks nightclub

Copper Face Jacks nightclub

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Copper Face Jacks nightclub

ANYONE's first reaction on hearing about an incident on the streets outside a nightclub would be forgiven for thinking it was the result of drink, drugs or lack of security – they are the usual suspects.

I'll be the first to admit that when I awoke to the news that an 18-year old girl was critical after the incident outside Copper Face Jacks on Harcourt Street, my initial thought was that she was the victim of a violent attack.

Fortunately, the reasons are far more mundane.

My presumption was based on our typical fears about what could bring us harm on a night out.

They amount to: getting too drunk and becoming separated from friends, a bad experience in a taxi, a stray glass through the air or – at worst – becoming the victim of an assault or mugging.

In keeping out of harm's way, it's always the violent, vivid fantasies that gain credence in our minds.

But sometimes it's not the fears we anticipate that will be our downfall. Sometimes it's something much more mundane.

Writer Karen Thompson Walker has gained a strong following online writing about fear – or, more importantly, about what fear can teach us.

She draws on the story of a group of American sailors in the remote Pacific Ocean which inspired the classic tale of Moby Dick.

In 1819 they watched their ship sinking off the coast of Chile, while huddled together in three small whaleboats 10,000 miles from home and 1,000 miles from the nearest land.

Faced with three choices – the prospect of cannibals on the nearest island of Tahiti; braving severe storms off the coast of Hawaii at the height of hurricane season; or taking the third and longest route home, with the danger of starving to death before reaching land – the fear they chose to listen to would dictate whether they would live or die.

Walker reasons that their fate offers an enlightening example of what concerns we should really listen to, to keep ourselves on the safest path – from nights out socialising, to lifelong habits.

After much debate, filled with the crippling thoughts of cannibals and storms, they decided to steer clear of the closest island and instead set off on the longest route home.

When they were finally rescued by passing ships, fewer than half of the men had survived: and some had even resorted to cannibalism.

Walker argues that they listened to the wrong story in their head.

They dreamed up a variety of appalling scenarios; they responded to the most explicit, the most dramatic, and while doing so didn't pay attention to their biggest threat: the very real likelihood of starvation.

But if they had read their fears in a cool, measured way, they would have realised their biggest threat was "the less violent, more likely tale", as she puts it.

It's a lesson for life.

"Maybe we should spend less time worrying about serial killers and plane crashes and more time concerned with the subtler and slower disasters we face," she reasons, "the silent build-up of plaque in our arteries", for example.

You are more likely to die falling out of your bed, or off of a stepladder, or from scalding hot water than in a plane crash. Heart disease is more likely to get you than all of these put together.

Sometimes our subtlest fears are the most likely – and they are the ones to listen to.

An estimated 1,500 people were caught up in what was described as a "stampede" last Monday night. Seven people suffered injuries; four were taken to hospital by ambulance.

When I started thinking about the reports of the incident outside Copper's, my mind was taken back to the words of Walker.

The cause of the surge of the crowd wasn't drink or drugs or a particularly aggressive group on a 'Messy Monday', as it was called. It was something much simpler than that.

The revellers were ill-prepared for the weather on what turned out to be one of the harshest nights of the year. And, in bitter temperatures, the crowd must have been desperate to get inside.

It wasn't the rowdy reveller with the broken glass, or an overzealous or careless bouncer. Many, I think, would have simply pushed forth to get out of the cold.

Just like the fate of the sailors, the incident outside Coppers offers an example of how to keep ourselves from harm's way.

Understanding that sometimes the most mundane issue can be the more immediate will direct us toward the things to think about before heading out into the night.

Irish Independent