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.