Fearless as a Child
I’d only popped out of the room for a minute. I returned to find my one and a half year old had climbed all the way up the full size adult ladder, and like a little mini-marvel, was crouched low to avoid the ceiling on top of my son’s cupboard, at the very edge, delightedly messing with his most highly prized belongings!
Now I’m not one of those parents who hysterically screams “Come down Harry, you’ll hurt yourself!!!!!” every time one of my children dares to climb a tree or something – I do like to let them find their feet and push their boundaries. Even so, I caught my breath and had to bite my tongue while I strode over there. I quickly climbed up behind her, and complemented her on her climbing skills. Little monkey!
So I moved the ladder, this time leaning it at the middle on an old cot full of teddies. I figured that if she did go up, she’d hopefully get off at teddy level. I was wrong. You couldn’t keep her away from the thing. Under my watchful, OK slightly proud eye, she quickly got herself to the top again and this time stood on the second to top rung, leaning on the top rung, hands free, completely chilled out, and surveying the toys on top of the nearby shelves to see what she could reach. When she actually reached out and the ladder slid a fraction of a centimeter to the right that was enough for me. I captured my little monkey, put her safely back on terra firma, and put the ladder lying down on the floor till it could be put away … you should have heard the shrieks of protest!
It was a beautiful example of fearlessness (more on her part than mine). Fear is bred into us. If you watch small children they are completely fearless. They have to be. Think about it, you come into this world, totally reliant on others for your very survival, with the world around you making very little sense. With the exception of the feel, smell, sound of your mother everything else is foreign and your senses aren’t even fully developed yet. Once your brain receives information it has very basic compartments to put things in, probably labelled something like ‘me’ and ‘not me’. So we learn about the world around us at the same time as actually developing our mind’s capacity to understand that world. Can you imagine if we approached such a job with fear? We’d be too scared to function.
So where does all this fear come from? Why as adults are so many of us afraid of so much? People say that we need to have a degree of fear in order to keep us away from doing stupid things, like walking off cliffs or sticking our hands in a fire. I don’t agree. We don’t need fear, we need awareness. If you understand that a fire is hot and will damage you if you put your hand in it, then its common sense that dictates you don’t do it, not fear.
I think fear is overrated and overused. I also think it’s a big fat slug of a thing that might take humanity a while or at least a concentrated effort to shake off. It is so bred into us to use fear as a motivator both with ourselves and others. Don’t climb the ladder or you’ll fall off, don’t try something new or you’ll fail and everybody will laugh, don’t try to drive that truck, you’ll probably crash it.
Dontcha get the feeling that humanity is on the verge of something big right now? This is a bit of a soap box topic for me, and I’ll probably blog about it sometime. Personally I believe we’re on the verge of some evolutionary leap in the way we think. There are things we need to grasp such as the idea that there is more than enough for everybody, and that you attract to you the things you feel strongest about. There are also cobwebs we need to clear. Fighting and anger don’t solve problems, they postpone or even create them. You aren’t a successful human being just because you have the most stuff, or because you’re the most outrageous thing on TV. And fear is something that might happen to you if you’re in mortal danger but it shouldn’t make an everyday appearance on the horizon of your mind, every time you’re in touch with the unexpected or the new.
Let’s instead choose acceptance. Let’s choose curiosity and let’s choose a sense of adventure. Babies at their most vulnerable are also at their bravest … by and large they survive into adulthood, so they must be doing something right.
This week if you find yourself putting the frighteners on somebody when you could just help them be aware, then experiment with awareness instead. And if you find yourself afraid of something, examine it closely, get to know it deeply and see how well you can approach it differently.
Onward, fellow adventurers!
“There are always two voices sounding in our ear: the voice of fear, and the voice of confidence. One is the clamor of the senses, the other is the whispering of the higher self.” Charles B. Newcomb