What is the fine line between bravery and stupidity? You run away: are you a coward or intelligent? If fear is the only thing we have to fear, what is the function of fear?
I think we can do a lot learning to distinguish types of fear, and from where the fear comes from: is it really our fear or something learnt, a prejudice? Fear, in animals, has proven to be useful, and is part of our evolutionary make-up. And yet there are moments where we are inhibited by fear and feel paralysed to do anything at all: we are hindered by phantasmic “what ifs?” that stop us before we even try – all those niggling doubts build up and paralyse us. We might cite types of animals that “freeze”, but, psychologically speaking, when we are paralysed by our fears it is not a survival tactic, and quite often has the opposite affect of hindering us.
And so we seek to build courage by overcoming out fear, “transcending our limitations”, which is fine up until we confuse our natural fear with our cultural fear. We confuse them by labelling them both “fear”, and also because we have been taught to ignore the natural and replace it with the cultural.
So, what is the difference between bravery and stupidity? Courage is overcoming our culturally conditioned fears, but it becomes stupidity when it ignores our inherent fear. On my doorstep is a forest, and the most dangerous thing to encounter there is human stupidity. The vipers and wild boar are dangerous only if you don’t respect them and “their territory” – I don’t and can’t march into it as if I owned the place, and the same in an urban area.
There’s a path to discover discriminating between the fear that stops us from living and the fear that favours life. It’s been good for me to pay attention to my fears, even so-called “unreasonable” fears, and give them due space (they’re there for a reason). Maybe you decide to bypass that fear or maybe to adhere to it, either way let it be a clear decision, and then watch the results. And start with the little things, like fear of learning a new skill, before going for those life-risking things, like swimming with sharks. 😉
I read something in my psychosynthesis lesson that the contents of our relationship cannot be changed, but we (as identifier) can change our relationship to them – which would put a large part of the self-help industry out of business, and some of psychology’s schools of thought, lol. A lot of psychological work is not about change but about integration of what is already there, which itself is a great catalyst for change.
Much of what we have to learn in life doesn’t come from outside of us but are residing within, and waiting. I figure that it’s because the greatest lessons in life are universal and archetypal, something all humans have to go through in one form or another, so they are innate. We can learn facts, figures and other bits of info externally, but what we have to learn about life resides hidden within us, waiting to be recognised and integrated, as lessons encountered as part of the phases of life, or re-discoveries of lessons denied to us earlier in life.
In this sense, we don’t learn anything from life circumstances about ourselves and life, but they do offer a great opportunity to know ourselves and discover our own potential.
One thing I didn’t like about the “masculine world” was the competitiveness of it, the striving to compare yourself to others and be better than them. But in comparison I wasn’t the best so I was rarely in the upper rungs of competitive success. At an early age I was disillusioned with whole “being better” than anyone else: I was terrible at sport (I hated it) and in academia I was a bit of an underachiever, doing the bare minimum of what was asked of me, especially if I wasn’t interested in the subject.
But this “under-achievement” was a place of safety; the bottom rungs, a place that most people ignored (successful, “better” people draw too much attention to themselves, and thus more judgement), so I had the freedom to do what I wanted without the pressure to be and do “better”. Whatever I did I did to make myself happy more than others.
Achievement has too much stress associated with it, something I didn’t want; I wanted to be happy, not run around like a headless chicken. But it has a flip side: not striving to be better at such a young age can become a habit; doing nothing can be the norm, so nothing happens. I did come to a crunch moment in my life when I couldn’t just opt for second best ALL the time; I had to find a way to achieve things in my life, or else nothing would happen, but I didn’t want to do it as a Man to outdo other Men; it’s just wasn’t worth it.
I found a manner to step aside from the ladder everyone else seemed to be on. It was difficult to avoid conventionality when I didn’t see what alternatives there were, but in the end I succeeded on my own terms and began looking at my life, not as part of the system but something of value in its own right. The world still works on this competitive system, and though I don’t have to be caught up in it I still have to negotiate with it a bit (less and less as I find alternatives). Eventually the under-achiever became the self-achiever, and I haven’t looked back.
I can be defined by certain characteristics, but are they characteristics that define who I am or what group I belong to? I am white, male, long-haired, left-handed, green eyed, Southener/English/British/European/Human, an anglophone and (partially) hispanophone, 5′ 8″, a druid, an artist, a conlanger, an environmentalist, etc.. Do these characteristics belong to me, or do they denote what group I belong to?
If what we identify with controls us, and that identity connects us with a group, then any common characteristic can become apertures through we we can be controlled by that group. It’s said that humans on their own are more intelligent than humans in groups. And no surprise, if one individual has to drag about the weight of a group identity with them! And yet groups and relationships also provide ways to hide the blind spots we have of ourselves, so as long as we remain in self-ignorance they will persist in this manner.
But perhaps what we really need is acceptance, and belonging to a group often facilitates this: some groups will overlook our shortcomings as long as we are “one of them”. I’d be uncomfortable being accepted like this in a group (hey, that sound familiar: Groucho Marx maybe? lol). So perhaps, on the whole, it is better to be accepted as an individual with a constellation of characteristics (some shared, some not) I call “me” than to be accepted just because I am in “the club”.
Inspired by a recent forum discussion about the role of magic(k) in modern paganism:
My attitude to and belief in magic has changed. I got into Paganism via “nature worship”, that’s what really drew me in, and magic just happened to be a part of the whole Pagan thing (my first excursion into the subject was through Wicca). The magic side of things did interest me for a while, but I was more interested in its significance than its practice. My questions to myself “why do I need it? Do I actually need it?” I once read something that really changed my view of it, which was that I can make a spell but the result will not be the exact one I want; it will be an unconscious change of myself that influences how I act in my life. I can ask for love, wealth or health, but unconsciously I will be making changes to myself that will somehow draw these things into my life.
I think I was more for personal development, making changes within myself than making changes outside of me. And since I can make change within myself without magic, why bother? On the other hand Buddhism influenced my thinking: instead of changing things, maybe it is my perception of things that needs changing. So I left magic behind, though I still held symbolic actions important.
Nowadays I don’t believe that simply by ritualised intent I can make things change (except myself). I believe making symbols (artistically, ritualistically or otherwise) to symbolise my intentions or wishes is important, but these act more as a “mission statement” to myself, a plan or vision by which I can act… and then the changes occur.
For me “real magic” is art and creativity. It is the way we can apply our imagination and perception to transform the world. It the the transformation of inanimate elements into living beings, the transformation of reaction into reflection, the transformation of imagination into concrete reality. It’s an alchemy of the world and ourselves that involves our perception of it.
I may have let go of certain ideas about magic, but it’s become something else as my perception and understanding of it changed. Magic itself has undergone a transformation of alchemy.
“Space: the final frontier,” or so this well known phrase would have it. But is it the final frontier? Apparently we know more about space than we know about the depths of the oceans and seas of our own planet. Maybe seaQuest had it right and that “below beneath the surface [of the sea] lies the future”? We known more about what’s “out there” than “in here”.
But this is a good metaphor for our psychological life: we know more about what’s happening in the world around us than the hidden dimensions and dynamics of the human psyche, in a sense in our own “marine” depths. And yet, unbelievably, it is the closest thing to us. “Outer space” is a known quantity to us, but we are unaware of the depths that we carry around with us. And perhaps we have inexhaustible depths, worth a lifetime of exploration and discovery, both in terms of history and future development, a whole new adventure for the rest of our lives.
At least until another “final frontier” makes itself known to us. 😉
Imagination, in the context of escapism, can often seen an alternative to reality, something that gives an opportunity to “get away” from reality, which distances it from reality; the imagination is seen as something abstract. But I think, instead of an alternate reality, it gives alternatives of reality; that we can generate ideas about reality, testing these and creatively applying them to the world around us, transforming it.
Another thing is that the imagination is seen as something abstract, but I think it is something very physiological. When we see a movie or read a book the stories evoke reactions in our bodies: hearts may race, breathing may slow down, butterflies might jiggle in our stomachs and hands get clammy. The imagination has its roots in the body, not in an unseen, abstract realm.
I’m poring over some stuff I’d written about individuation and found a little part to share here. The image is physiological, but keep in mind its psychological relevance:
Individuation is to be distinct from the world around you. Not isolated, but distinct. It is in this way you can function in the world. Most organisms have to be, in some way, physiologically individuated in order to function well in the world. The cells that comprise my body have to be individuated from one another if my body is not to reduce into a useless blancmange.
It’s soothing to think that no human is 100% rational. A lot of times I observe human behaviour and think that doesn’t make sense (even of myself), and then I remember that we all have deeply animal roots going back millions of years and think oh, okay, the nonsensicalness does make sense, if that makes sense. But there’s still that rational doubt that it’s just so weird!
I think that’s partly why I’m a druid, I can make a space for indulging my irrational self (myth, magic, miracles, etc) without losing a grasp on my ability to reason, and also I get in touch with parts of myself that may, under more rational circumstances, not be allowed to surface. Instinct, imagination and intuition must have evolved for a reason (reasonably explainable, lol). But even if we do encourage those “non-rational” parts of us we can still maintain a “level head” (providing we have a level head in the first place), and therefore distinguish between the sacred power of wyrd and what us just plain weird!
This may seem contradictory, but without Other there can be no wholeness. We find wholeness in some way through Other. As a person I can be whole unto myself, but without the life experience we don’t find wholeness. Much of the life experience is in relation and interaction.
I don’t rely on Other to define who or what I am, or to complete me as a person, but that in my encounter with the Other my experience of life is broadened and made more complete.
We’re social creatures, living in a world where not everything is “me”, nor am I an isolated entity experiencing a mirroring void, but a self in relationship with other selves. Part of the wholeness of human life is in the interaction, relation and communication with a truly distinct Other.