risk

The Residue of Fear

The Residue of Fear

"I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hear instead of the things they needed to, told myself I wasn't meant to be anyone's conscience because I still had to figure out being my own, so sometimes I just wouldn't say anything, appeasing ignorance with my silence." ~ Clint Smith

What Really Gave You Joy

How to Make Origami Paper from Notebook Paper

Stuart Brown in conversation with Krista Tippett, from "Play, Spirit, and Character," On Being, June 19, 2014: 

I don’t want to foster broken bones and concussions and that sort of thing in kids, but an inherent part of being playful is taking risks. What you don't want to do is have the risks be excessive. And the natural history of play in the world, both animal and human, is that persistent play increases the risk of death and damage while it's taking place, but it appears to be absolutely necessary for the well-being and the future of the species.

So it's a conundrum. But to remove all risk from kids' play is to not allow them the spontaneity from within to develop themselves. It's a judgment call on the part of parents. And this is where I have some beef with the media — in that "if it bleeds, it leads" — the perceptions of the levels of violence and risk in our culture are really beyond what the actual risks are, so that a responsible parent feels they can't let their kid be out on the streets in the afternoon and that sort of thing...

I think it's safer for the person who is a player to take a few hard knocks and maybe have a fracture in childhood, than it is to insulate them from the possibility of that. I think that that constricts their psyches and their futures much more.

Any parent with a young child — say a child over three but under 12 — if you just observe them, and don't try and direct them, and watch what it is they like to do in play, and get some sense of how their temperament intermixes with their play desires, you often will see a key to their innate talents. And if those talents are given fairly free reign, if you allow those innate talents to build upon themselves and the environment is favorable enough so that it supports that...I think that then you see that there is a union between self and talent.

And that this is nature's way of sort of saying this is who you are and what you are. And I'm sure if you go back and think about your children or yourself and go back to your earliest emotion-laden, visual and visceral memories of what really gave you joy, you'll have some sense of what was natural for you and where your talents lie. I think it’s pretty important.

Listen to the whole conversation...

Row for Your Life

West Wind #2
by Mary Oliver, from West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems

You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rockswhen you hear that unmistakable
poundingwhen you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steamingthen row, row for your life
toward it.

Orphaned Ones

They Have Come as Light in Disguise to Unlock a Secret Inside You
by Matt Licata, from A Healing Space

Will you provide a home for the unwanted? Will you offer refuge for the intensity that is surging through you? Will you grant asylum to your own confusion? Will your give safe harbor to your grief, your sadness, and your despair? Will you risk everything to know how whole you really are? 

As a little one, it was intelligent to split off from overwhelming emotional experience; it was an act of kindness and creativity to disembody in order to protect your developing nervous system. It is all so fragile, really. You opened your world to those around you, to get what you needed; you were wired for love. It was too much to hold it all, though, to let in the disappointment and the abandonment, and the possibility that you were not lovable exactly as you were. This you could not let in. Your little heart could not absorb the implications.  

But these disowned parts of you these fragments of fear, pieces of sadness, and particles of shame; even the shards of joy, great excitement, and other undigested “positive” experiences – are calling for you. They are knocking at the door of your body and your heart, seeking a sanctuary where they can finally be touched and metabolized. What you are is love itself, a luminous space of pure awareness, with a capacity to hold and transform whatever comes into your experience. You are a vast field of intelligence; your body is made of the stars. 

Friends, will you continue to turn from these orphaned ones within? Or will you allow them to finally come inside? Will you receive the transmission that they have come to bestow? Yes, it may appear that they have arrived as agents of darkness and despair, but things are rarely as they seem. These ones have come as light in disguise to unlock a secret inside you.

Put Something Into The World That Hasn't Been Said Before

Seth Godin

Seth Godin

Seth Godin from "Seth Godin on the Art of Noticing, and then Creating," On Being, January 24, 2013:

When I give a talk — at the end [I'll] say, are there any questions? And the only people who are raising their hand are raising their hand because they think they have a question the group wants to hear. They think that they have something to contribute.

Now what's fascinating about it is five minutes after we're done, everyone has a question. Right? Because now it's safe to ask your question because you're not going to be judged on the question that you're going to ask.

But the people who do ask a question have demonstrated to themselves that they have good enough judgment to be able to put something into the world that hasn't been said before. That's what makes it a good question. And that practice is something that we should learn and we should teach our kids, and we should teach our colleagues how to do it.

See also:

Equanimity in Action

Moonwalk from Bryan Smith on Vimeo.

The ultimate full moon shot. Dean Potter walks a highline at Cathedral Peak as the sun sets and the moon rises. Shot from over 1 mile away with a Canon 800mm and 2X by Michael Schaefer

This shot was part of a bigger project for National Geographic called The Man Who Can Fly.  

Music track is from Will Bolton.

Small Courage

Árbol de Hierve el Agua (San Isidro, Oaxaca, November 2010)

"I was reading an issue of Men's Journal magazine. The lead article was '100 Things To Do Before You Die.' On the list were things like climb Mt. Everest, parachute from a plane, hand feed a shark, etcetera. I skimmed the other things they suggested should be on everyone's list. I had no desire to do even one of them.

Then I thought is there anything I would like to do before I die that I haven't done yet? Hypothetically if someone is living fully, they're doing what matters (or is important) to them whenever and however they can.

There's something dubious, even pathetic about having to make lists of tasks to do before you die so in doing them, you can be sure you will have really 'lived.' The Japanese say 'live every day as if your hair was on fire' and within realistic bounds, that sounds about right.

Most of the time we know almost as soon as a situation arises whether we will regret not doing it afterwards or not if we say no. We also know most of the time that despite our many fearful, well behaved inner voices telling us not to do something, that we should ignore those voices and go ahead and do it. Because when we do and it works, it makes us bigger and life richer. If it fails, we hurt for a while but then heal and move on.

You don't need to climb Mt. Everest to have led a fulfilled life. You only have to have the courage, and usually it is only small courage, to say yes. Say yes and do something when your first, second and third instincts may be to say no because that frightens me."

~ Jonathan Carroll

You Don't Get Anything for Being a Poet Now

The Artist Must Incline His Head Just So
by Matthew Zapruder

Often I have an idea and say it immediately.
If people praise me I wear the world
shyly on top of my head.
At times I'm compelled
like a fever to float
without any distinctions,
a sea of tin cans, love letters and greed.
The world is good for my pleasure and consumption.
I admire it totally, it stands
like a mountain inside and outside me.
Some art may be good, some dishonest.
There's no pressing need for conscription or liberty,
though a carful of people rides down the highway
too fast, clouded in song.
My lack of compassion astounds me,
and must not come to know itself.
It's true, I've never done anything
quite like striking you across the face.
There is of course the question of fate,
and whether it can be angered.
Example: when not overpowered by grief
there are proper and improper ways to mourn.
In such cases my gestures are shadows
cast far from myself
by one who crawls through the library,
touching the books that she touched.
I have dream after dream and forget each one.

Excerpt from Interview With Writer Matthew Zapruder from Words with Writers (Sep. 25, 2011):

I tell my students that we’re all in it together. We all have to do the same stuff, which is to keep struggling and trying out things. Eventually, something catches and we have to be honest with ourselves, forgiving of ourselves, but also work really hard.

Remember that poets are part of a holy tribe. Our egotistical and individual need to be praised is not more important than the greater good of writing poems, and being part of this ancient tradition of being the self-designated lucid dreamers of society. Nobody gives a [cuss] who wins what prize, everybody forgets who won about five minutes later, nobody gets any money from being a poet, nobody gets any real praise, and you turn to dust just like everybody else, but along the way you get to be a poet. You get to be a member of this tribe. That’s what you get.

If you’re ready for that, you want that, and that’s your fate, then you are welcome to be part of it. Nobody can tell anybody they can’t be part of it. The dead will take care of you. You future readers will love you long after you’re gone, but you don’t get anything for being a poet now. None of that matters when you’re sitting at your desk writing a poem. You have to find a way to live like a decent person.

Equanimity at Work (1,000 Feet above Lower Manhattan)

Credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times

‘‘You need to have a very unique trait inside, to go running out on the iron,’’ says Kevin Sabbagh, 24, a fifth-generation ironworker known as Woogie. ‘‘You have to be able to block out how high up in the air you are. ...My partner and I, we look down every once in a while. We look, we chuckle and say, ‘Wow,’ and we go back to work.’’

See also:

To Be Swallowed Up

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

~ Louise Erdrich, from The Painted Drum

@jonathancarroll

Feeling Secure

“We respond to the feeling of security and not the reality. Most of the time that works…So it’s important for us, those of us who design security, who look at security policy, or even look at public policy in ways affect security [to realize that] it’s not just reality it’s feeling and reality. What’s important is that they be about the same. If our feelings match reality we make better security trade-offs.”

~ Bruce Schneier

Common cognitive biases related to risk perception:

  • We tend to exaggerate spectacular and rare risks and downplay common risks
  • The unknown is perceived to be riskier than the familiar
  • Personified risks are perceived to be greater than anonymous risks
  • People underestimate risks in situations they do control and overestimate them in situations they don’t control
  • We estimate the probability of something by how easy it is to bring instances of it to mind [availability heuristic]
  • We respond to stories more than data

Books by Bruce Schneier:

This is the Time

Two of six excellent letters of advice to new college students from “Ditch Your Laptop, Dump Your Boyfriend,” New York Times, September 25, 2010:

College is your chance to see what you’ve been missing, both in the outside world and within yourself. Use this time to explore as much as you can.

Take classes in many different subjects before picking your major. Try lots of different clubs and activities. Make friends with people who grew up much poorer than you, and others much richer. Date someone of a different race or religion. (And no, hooking up at a party doesn’t count.) Spend a semester abroad or save up and go backpacking in Europe or Asia.

Somewhere in your childhood is a gaping hole. Fill this hole. Don’t know what classical music is all about? That’s bad. Don’t know who Lady Gaga is? That’s worse. If you were raised in a protected cocoon, this is the time to experience the world beyond.

College is also a chance to learn new things about yourself. Never been much of a leader? Try forming a club or a band.

The best things I did in college all involved explorations like this. I was originally a theater major but by branching out and taking a math class I discovered I actually liked math, and I enjoyed hanging out with technical people.

By dabbling in leadership — I ran the math club and directed a musical — I learned how to formulate a vision and persuade people to join me in bringing it to life. Now I’m planning to become an entrepreneur after graduate school. It may seem crazy, but it was running a dinky club that set me on the path to seeing myself as someone who could run a business.

Try lots of things in college. You never know what’s going to stick.

— TIM NOVIKOFF, Ph.D. student in applied mathematics at Cornell

*     *     *     *     *

Devices have become security blankets. Take the time to wean yourself.

Start by scheduling a few Internet-free hours each day, with your phone turned off. It’s the only way you’ll be able to read anything seriously, whether it’s Plato or Derrida on Plato. (And remember, you’ll get more out of reading Derrida on Plato if you read Plato first.) This will also have the benefit of making you harder to reach, and thus more mysterious and fascinating to new friends and acquaintances.

When you leave your room for class, leave the laptop behind. In a lecture, you’ll only waste your time and your parents’ money, disrespect your professor and annoy whoever is trying to pay attention around you by spending the whole hour on Facebook.

You don’t need a computer to take notes — good note-taking is not transcribing. All that clack, clack, clacking ... you’re a student, not a court reporter. And in seminar or discussion sections, get used to being around a table with a dozen other humans, a few books and your ideas. After all, you have the rest of your life to hide behind a screen during meetings.

— CHRISTINE SMALLWOOD, Ph.D. student in English and American literature at Columbia

Read the other essays here…

Look Back with Firm Eyes

 Adirondacks, August 7, 2011

Self Portrait
by David Whyte, from Fire In the Earth

It doesn't interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

 

Life is an Experiment

“Life consists in penetrating the unknown, and fashioning our actions in accord with the new knowledge thus acquired.”

~ Leo Tolstoy, from The Kingdom of God Is within You

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make, the better.  What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice?  Up again, you shall nevermore be so afraid of a tumble again.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journals, November 11, 1842

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

~ Anaïs Nin, from D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study

“What is a scientist after all? It is a curious [person] looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on."

~ Jacques Cousteau, from The Christian Science Monitor, July 21, 1971

“The greater one's science, the deeper the sense of mystery.”

~ Vladimir Nabokov, from Strong Opinions

"Everybody's a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We're all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos."

~ David Cronenberg, from Cronenberg on Cronenberg

Our Dream of Safety Has to Disappear

George Tooker, Cornice, (circa 1949). Egg tempera on gesso panel 24 x 15 inches.

Leap Before You Look
by W.H. Auden 

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.