Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings 11/25/18

Sunday musings…

What are you afraid of? Alex Honnold, the climber and subject of the thrilling documentary “Free Solo”, feels that most people are afraid of what others think of them. That a lack of, or a loss of social standing is the prevailing greatest fear among those living in developed society. Honnold’s feat in the documentary is to climb Yosemite’s El Capitain without any equipment at all, not even a safety rope. His definition of fear makes perfect sense in that context: fear should involve some sort of real danger.

One should be aware of the peculiar nature of individuals who do things like climb mountains, with or without the use of safety measures. They tend toward a more inward view, taking their own pulse as it were rather than seeking to have a take on the pulse of others. As an aside it always amazes me that they marry, more so that some of them remain married. The fear of which Honnold speaks is as much fuel to them as a pack of gel squeezed between the teeth at mile 20 in a road race. They simply need it in order to move.

Must we who do not willingly partake in life-threatening activity adopt such a stark approach to fear? Is it trivial, or are we trafficking in the trivial, if we are fearful of that which may not necessarily take our lives? Yes and no, I think. Rare is the opportunity for the majority of us to be in a place at a time when we truly fear for our lives. Most often is the case that it will be an illness that brings us there; fear in this case has as much to do with the utter lack of control over our fate when illness strikes. We simply do not have the need to fear for our lives; we do not need to address real danger.

Fear of failure is the common thread that links the Honnolds of the world with you and me. Sometimes that failure puts us in a position where we might feel judged. We may find a lesson here if we look through the eyes of a man who will succeed or fail based on how well he maintains contact with little more than finger or toe tips: it is the failure that we might reasonably fear and not what others might think of that failure.

Not every failure needs to be feared. Our reality is different from that encountered on the side of the mountain. Some failures are necessary, nothing more than a part of a process that results in ultimate success. What I will take from Honnold’s conjecture on fear is that it is I who decides which of my endeavors is important enough that I might let fear into the equation when the possibility of failure is considered. But I do think that Honnold is right to dismiss (most of) the fear of what others think of us. It’s OK to care, but it’s more than OK not to allow that caring to rise to the level of fear.

While others may opine on my particular adventure, if the adventure is grand enough I need not be afraid of what they think of either my adventure or of me.

I’ll see you next week…



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