Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Fearless And Street Smart

Skellenger Lane, Napa Valley, California, USA

August 6, 2012



"Speak softly, and carry a big stick." ... President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt - often misquoted as "Walk softly, but carry a big stick."

This essay, Fearless And Street Smart, is the companion piece to
  1. Fear
  2. Uncomfortably Shy Yet Strikingly Bold: A Self Portrait
in that order.




Within societies ("us"  vs "them", the "good"  guys vs the "bad"  guys, our  god is better than your  god, etc), fear is a great uniter. Among individuals, fear is a great leveler, a great common denominator. Shy people are shy because they're afraid. People who brag, brag because they're afraid. Meek people are meek because they're afraid. People who bully, are bullies because they're afraid. People who lie, cheat, and steal, do so because they're afraid. People who strive for wealth and fortune at any cost, do so because they're afraid. People who are closed to entertaining new ideas, do so because they're afraid. People who foist their beliefs on others, do so because they're afraid. People who want to conquer and dominate others, do so because they're afraid. People who avoid  being conquered and dominated, do so because they're afraid. People who avoid the law, do so because they're afraid. People who enforce  the law, do so because they're afraid - really!

For the most part, we're the way we are, as societies and as individuals, because we're afraid. It's pernicious. It's very  pernicious. It's everywhere. It's not bound by country, creed, culture, or era. No one's immune. It's the design of being human. We live, for the most part, in modus operandi  which may best be described as surviving  (ie surviving fear and danger - both real and imaginary) and protecting  (ie protecting what we got - which devolves into holding on  to what we got).

I assert when living is all about surviving and protecting, there's no fulfillment in it. I'm not asking you to accept this just because I said it. I'm asking you to try it on for size. I'm asking you to consider "What if it were  true?". I'm asking you to look at whether the absence of fulfillment in living makes more sense  (if I may say it this way) when you consider the spoiling  roles of surviving and protecting - no matter how necessary both may seem to be.

When living is merely surviving and protecting, there's no fulfillment in it, and there's no freedom. So what then, I ask, is the way out of this dilemma, the dilemma which seemingly has us moving in two opposite, contradictory  directions at once. We move toward fulfillment and freedom, and yet we also move toward surviving fear and danger, and protecting what we got, both of which comprise the very antithesis of fulfillment and freedom.

Part of the resolution of this state of affairs comes with seeing the humor in the situation. When everyone  is afraid of everyone else  ... there's humor in there somewhere, yes? When you're afraid of everyone else, and you don't realize everyone else is also afraid of everyone else  ... that's very funny! And when you finally get that while you're  afraid of everyone else, everyone else is afraid of you  ... it's hilarious, a shaking belly laughing inside joke about how afraid we are of everyone else without realizing everyone else is afraid of us  ...

Clearly in the absence of this realization, the street smart  way to be is to keep on surviving and protecting, isn't it? So now consider this: if you're afraid of me (which keeps you stuck in surviving and protecting) and I'm afraid of you (which keeps me stuck in surviving and protecting), how easy would it be for both  of us to give it up? I don't know about you, but I find the simplicity of this possibility to be inspiring ... and I find the part where, for the most part we, as humanity, don't  give it up to be especially ironic.

But it's not ironic like laughing at  us at our expense. It's ironic like laughing with  us in love and compassion. It's ironic like laughing with us in love and compassion for what we could become  ...

Pragmatically speaking, people won't stop being afraid of you (so they won't stop surviving and they won't stop protecting themselves against you) just because you've stopped being afraid of them. You have to enroll  them in this - as a possibility for themselves and for their lives. In the meantime, speak softly and carry a big stick. Be both fearless and  street smart.



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