Fear, Curiosity And Encouragement.

By a strange coincidence, (Grannymar I refrain from using my favourite word,) I was led to this post by three references. The first is a reference to The Rev Ed Bacon who realized that the Bible’s focus was not about tribalism and separation, but rather it was about overcoming fear-based tribalism and separation with inclusion and universal compassion. The other is what I am currently reading, Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity where he brings some remarkable insights into the human emotion of fear through the eyes of a historian.

Now I come to the third coincidence. I am in frequent and deep discussions on matters spiritual with a very dear friend who is trying to get out of religion and come to grips with his own spirituality. I am by and large areligious where as my friend is deeply religious but finds it stifling and dogmatic. But FEAR is the predominant feature of his inability to quit and be his own man. Primarily fear of leaving the known! In talking about fear Zeldin delves into the origins of tribalism and religions and that is the most remarkable aspect of the coincidences that I am impressed with.

I am now addicted to Zeldin and look for anything to do with him and found a very interesting interview with him by BBC Online and I reproduce some extracts from it to elaborate what I am currently experiencing with my friend.

Q: “What is it that you think is so revolutionary and radical – you describe it as the evolution of a new type of human being – about relationships? What is this specific spark in which you put so much faith?

A: I think one of the most important changes of our time has been our attitude to fear. Every civilisation defends itself by keeping fears out and saying ‘we protect you from fear’. But it also produces new fears and throughout history people have changed the kind of fears which have worried them. They used to be worried by devils and by spells.

Whenever you did anything it was somebody, some neighbour trying to ruin your life and then by the fear of going to hell and so on. As we diminish those fears we have got fears about security and ill health and housing, unemployment and so on, and what one notices about the last century is the desire to abolish fear and in America they said we are going to abolish fear.

I don’t think fear can be abolished. You can change fear on one hand, you can swap fears and on the other hand you can forget about fears and how do you do that? You forget about it by curiosity. You become so intent on something which interests you that you forget that it’s mad to do it, that you can’t do it and you just go ahead and do it and the originality of our time is that we are becoming more curious. Curiosity was forbidden in the past. Women were not allowed to read. Not only women but men of all sorts of lower, so-called lower, occupations were told just remain where you are and don’t interfere in things you don’t understand. And now we want to know about everything and we want to know not only about our own jobs but all jobs and all activities in all countries. This changes the kind of person you are. It makes you receptive to everything and once you are curious, you cannot stop.

Q: And in our relationships we finally have an intimacy, a maturity… we’re not alone for the first time, is that what you’re saying? Is that the reason why we might manage it?

A: I think what helps us to be brave is encouragement. That is why I say that the origin of change now is “the couple” because there you can have two people who encourage each other and who can admit in privacy their vulnerability and you can do nothing without someone at least saying ‘yes, go ahead’ and if you add that to curiosity, and instead of your partner saying you know nothing about it, keep out, the partner says well why not try and I know that you know there’s something in there. You would be unhappy if you don’t do it. That is the source of change. It’s curiosity and encouragement and nothing can be done without encouragement. What we are concerned about now is how to stimulate the amount of encouragement in the world because all our institutions so far have been discouraging. You go to school and you’re told that you’re not very good. You go to university and you’re given a second-class degree, not first. And then you’re given a job which is not quite the top one, only a few people get to the top, so everything tells you you are not very good. We’ve got to move to a stage where life is more of an adventure of which one is not afraid.

Q: What are your grounds for optimism and what are its pre-conditions?

A: We can do nothing without encouragement and I believe that the new relationship which we are trying to construct between men and women is one which is organised to produce courage and people can in privacy acknowledge their vulnerability and be helped to overcome it. And I think that the, this combined with the curiosity which people are beginning to express and feel means that they can go beyond what exists now, and that means that private life is going to be the source of change and not public life. We cannot change public life until we have changed private life.

Q: This is genuinely new, is it? This hasn’t been happening all along through history but we just weren’t — but it was not somehow observed?

A: There have been individuals in the past who have lived lives of intimacy with a partner which are, sound very modern, in all nations, in Japan and China as well as in Europe, but these have been exceptions. Quite often for example you’d get a father in China who had no son and he would then educate his daughter and enable her to do things which no woman had ever done before but these were exceptions and now it seems to be becoming much more widespread in certain parts of the world. When people set an example and show how it’s done, others follow and the models of our time at present are actors and actresses. Why is this? Because they are people who put themselves in the skin of others and they say you don’t have to be what you are. You can try being something else. And this is very revolutionary.”

So, to some extent instead of the man woman couple, my friend and I could be called the couple that Zeldin talks about and we are making slow but steady progress learning from each other and also encouraging each other to explore further these matters that we can now afford to delve on since both of us are retired and have plenty of time to indulge in matters esoteric.

18 thoughts on “Fear, Curiosity And Encouragement.”

  1. my comments when your subject is deep always seem so simplistic. but then i am a simple person! but this is a fascinating subject. i will recommend the book to my brother. he is interested in religion vs spirituality. as am i. we long ago left ‘religion.’ at least the kind man made. and yet i consider myself very spiritual. or strive to be anyway.
    when i think about fear ~ i think that current mankind actually likes it. and even courts it.
    i have noticed at least in the media and entertainment popularity ~ fear in every form ~ from global warming and ultimate annihilation to the fear of terrorism to the fear of your next door neighbor and his peculiar beliefs and habits! LOL. like children who want to hear a ghost story but are afraid of it at the same time! maybe ‘fear’ will always be the motivating factor. maybe fear is in the human dna and will never leave.

    1. Zeldin does talk about completely eliminating fear through rigid disciplines, but this is not the forum to go into that. I hope that the marine will read and explain what I mean.

      But, generally speaking, yes, we have to live with fear of something/s and cannot simply wish it away. He does talk about the methods people follow to escape fear and that is fascinating.

  2. I will need to ponder more whether or not fear and curiosity are opposites … the next time I am getting ready for a life threatening excursion into the unknown!

    As for the relationship and education thing, certainly I am glad my wife went to college and I supported my daughter through a Master’s degree. It is great to be able to have a conversation with my daughter about the effects of quantum mechanics on chemical reaction rates. Yet I still have to wonder if this isn’t merely a rich man’s luxury …. that we can marry women and raise daughters that have a $250,000 education. Or is it possible for those who are poor and uneducated to have an intimate relationship?

    1. A very thought provoking observation Looney. Let me share a small story. I am blessed with two domestic helps. Both have been with me for ever! One is our gardener/handyman/errand boy and the other is our housemaid. I know them to be barely literate but to have sacrificed a great deal to ensure that their children got educated to some extent to escape their fate.

      That is however unimportant when you compare what both do. I know their respective spouses as well and one of the most endearing aspects of their lives is the way the couples consult each other on just about every aspect of their lives. Sometimes, they discuss matters with me as well without any inhibition.

      I suspect that we cannot generalise on either side of the divide. My late wife and I used each other as sounding boards all the time and greatly benefited from it. My son has a Masters degree and a post graduate diploma acquired at considerable expense and now he acts as my sounding board as well.

      I shall shortly be writing another post on this subject which may take this discussion to a different level.

      1. 🙂 I see good and bad relationships among both the educated and the uneducated. But now I am getting ready to go for a walk with my beloved wife. We will undoubtedly get to discuss how our days went and many other things, as is our daily routine.

    1. This is however not what I wanted Divya to read. Both of you have to wait a while for that post. I am however delighted that you consider it a treat.

  3. Oh go on, blame me, I have no fear!

    Over the past fourteen and a half years of widowhood, I have learned to cope with all that life throws at me and to make my own decisions. Worrying about waking with an angina attack in the wee small hours of the morning no longer causes me fear. I deal with it. I realise that one day I may not come out of an attack, but whether we read books with big words in them or not, we will all die someday.
    Grannymar recently posted..One for Buffy & Dexter

    1. You are in a unique situation Grannymar and I admire you for your resilience and self reliance. I do however know that you have many friends to consult with and/or advise. You are also one of the most curious persons that I know.

  4. I’ve never lost my curiousity, Ramana and am grateful for that. I use my daughter as a sounding board and she me. for that I am very lucky as I am a fairly late bloomer in a lot of matters.
    I await your further posts on this.
    Ah Zeldin. A maestro.
    wisewebwoman recently posted..Lessons

    1. Yes, that you are and it comes through loud and clear in your posts. Nothing like being able to use our children as sounding boards. I do frequently.

  5. Be it coincidence or otherwise, the book I am reading (Enjoy every Sandwich) also mentions fear, specifically the fear of dying. The author advocates meditation throughout the book, and he explains that meditation helps conquer fear because it alters certain structures in the brain.

    Square Peg Guy recently posted..Wednesday Weigh-In 20121227

    1. Eat Every Sandwich is a great book indeed. It was among the first that I bought on kindle and it will always remain in my memory for teaching me how to use the kindle!

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