fear (112)

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I'm so glad Dr. Mate' has his priorities right! He has seen "fearless" self-inquiry, individually and collectively as essential to overcoming the massive distortions of reality going on that are costing us our existence here on planet earth. If so many millions continue to buy his books and listen to his talks, as he is a 'guru' today in popular media and talk shows... may they all take a listen to this quote he ends his book with--as he sets out a vision for positive change. The "fearless" propositionhe calls for in this book is of course 'not normal' at all--not when we are talking about an authentic fearless self-inquiry not some superficial or romantic, bravado or be courageous or let's all just love each other and things will be better. Mate' is pointing towards so much more--and wiser truths. Yet, unfortunately, he doesn't philosophize on fear itself, a common error of teachers of all kinds. How will we understand fearless(ness) if we don't fully understand fear? 

BTW, those who, like Mate' are very familiar with AA's 12 Steps, will note that the "fearless self-inquiry" above spoken by Mate' is an echo of AA's Step 4: 

Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous encourages one to make, “A searching and fearless moral inventory” of themselves. In effect, this step is designed to help those struggling with addiction examine their character and behaviors. Through the process of discovering the true nature of personal character, a participant learns to understand identify the weaknesses that may have helped contribute to alcohol addiction. When one identifies these weaknesses, it allows them to begin to formulate plans to overcome them and changes their habits in the future. As one might expect, searching yourself so intimately can be a deeply uncomfortable and challenging endeavor. Luckily, there are processes for practicing Step 4 of AA.

His new book "The Myth of Normal" published in 2022 with his son Daniel Mate' as secondary author [erratum: not "2020 New Book" in the poster above, it is 2022]

 

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Meditation: Be Fearful and Fearless

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A Talk By R. M. Fisher, @ Meditative Inquiry Conference, Aug. 18, 2022 

The link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2H8yByGFYw&list=PLfVjDB_dQhEomgiYYmBJKj1nvD1oGBwaf&index=14

gives access to a Talk I did on the Fearlessness Worldview and its critique of Meditative Inquiry as is being promoted by several people, especially in E. Canada and the field of Education. This is part of a movement of spiritual education and its branches of holistic education, transpersonal education, contemplative education, mindfulness education, peace education, love education, etc. I critique the bias of perspective of all these movements that like to focus and collectivize their "corrective" for the world around virtues signalling and aims of hope. The Fearlessness Worldview, a liberation praxis itself and education process, takes another route, one that is arguably less fear-based, more integral-holistic and wiser than the fault of running after the next fix of 'escape' from fear and suffering and a world so enmeshed in the making of its own crises--at every level and especially at the level of the institutions that fall within the Dominant Worldview and its self-deception and corruption. 

After a brief meditation I offer at the beginning (photo above), I am 2nd to speak on the panel and I start with critical commentary about the problems I see in the book "Meditative Inquiry" based on the conference leader's work. IF you only want to see my teachings go to 25:38 on the video for a 20 min. rather improvisational lecture. And go to 1:10:45 for picking up on comments (Q and A) at the end of the panel session, in which you will hear one philosophy professor from India makes comments on my talk and concludes fervently "we need to be fearful and fearless" --then, I come on and comment on his comment and take the discussion further based on a question someone asked in the panel "define fearlessness." Of course, of which I didn't in a nice clean linear way! I give some reasons for why that is so, and the problem of my topic and this question in the context of having one or two minutes at most to engage it. I really find these rushed-time conference presentations as a format a horrid way to actually do serious scholarly work or dialogue. Oh, well... take this for what it's worth.... 

 

Of course, in only a 20 min. talk on a panel, it is near impossible to set up my arguments for a Fearlessness Worldview and 

 

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Social Media and the Swamp of Anxiety

Dr. Cal Newport's TED-X talk "Quit Social Media" is a must see video (13 min.), where he makes 3 arguments of why to stay off social media--and, he emphasizes in the 3rd one of those arguments that the worst is the rise in "anxiety disorders" (diagnosed or not diagnosed) that come with such use of this technology--a technology that is not essential to "deep work" and value and success in the society. 

go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E7hkPZ-HTk

As a fearologist and educator, I am equally concerned with the breeding of fear in a culture of fear embedded in social media platforms AS IF they are the only way to be involved in the world. I have never joined such social media platforms like FB, TWITTER, Instagram, etc. Only a modest participation in the FM ning community and posting on my Youtube channel is what I see as actually useful. I particularly know many of the truths that Dr. Cal Newport shares, as I have always believed children from the get go need to develop skills of "deep work" (concentration capacities and existential resilence)--boh of these skills are fast being eroded by social media and it hits the children earlier and earlier. My educational philosophy is one of getting children and youth unhooked from this 'sick' technology that is more harmful than not. Watch the video and make up your own mind. Spread the word... 

 

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[The following article is reprinted with permission from X. Yuan.] 

Fearless Conversations in Curriculum as a Wayfinding Amid Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Xuechen Yuan
Lakehead University

JCACS Musings, Apr. 19/22

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGpGwhzxzJsLzfBCcldNQRhjpdD

I fear many things amid the crisis in Ukraine when the immediate future is so unknown. Being immersed in mainstream news media makes me even more fearful. As a graduate student in Education, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the uncertainties of global consequences makes me very pessimistic about curriculum reform these days. At a time when collective trauma and fear coexist within the bodies of the world’s citizens, stories symbolizing backwardness are constantly told, and voices of hope for global justice are silenced. With the current nuclear terror in Europe, information warfare, the deteriorated NATO-Russian relationships, and the Taiwan Strait Crisis, news media induces a global mass hysteria of World War III. While people around the world stand in solidarity with Ukraine and others who are affected by Putin’s tyranny, I fear that humanity is headed for a more nuclearized, militarized, competitive, and backward situation. While looking at history, I realize that many of the decisions that led the world to being in an arms-race situation could have been avoided long ago. Decades of mistrust between the U.S. and Russia destroyed any hope for turning Russia into an ally and for democratic reform in Russia. Russian civilians’ distrust of the hypocrisy of democracy and freedom of speech has been reinforced since it does nothing to prevent millions of children from being malnourished, starving and dying.

To be fair, I’m writing this post out of fear. As someone born in an authoritarian state like China, I have always been discouraged to raise adverse opinions of sensitive issues on any platform. Especially in the face of the invasion, Chinese leaders have been siding with the aggressor, and have mass media intensifying toxic nationalism against the West. After an in-depth discussion with renowned fear scholar R. Michael Fisher, I realize that we could explore opportunities in fear. In Chinese, we often say Weiji (危机) — opportunity in crisis. I like how this transforms the relationship to fear rather than assuming a reductive and functional view that defines fear and supposes that it’s the best way to make sense of things (Fisher, 2010). We must understand fear, not run from it. The mainstream news media coverage of the current crisis in Europe has left us with a victim-type of fear, building curriculum that does not endow or inspire any practices of fearlessness. The American imperialism of news outlets has been inducing mass hysteria of nuclearization and Russophobia across the globe. It is not the future that haunts us but the fear of the future. But isn’t that what we fear every day? We fear what we are not prepared for (that we lack agency and readiness), but isn’t that the point of curriculum, to prepare us to face those fearful uncertainties during our apprenticeships, rather than spoon-feeding our ways out of fear?

Economic and political competition might seem like a ‘game of thrones’ for many conventional wisdom holders, and to many who view history as an objective truth. But I think of curriculum as being ‘agentic,’ a way-finding that can shift the narratives we tell of the past. A lot of us might be let down by the injustice in the world today, but we need to continue to find our ways amid fear, acknowledge and feel the fear inside of us, and then become courageous to face the fear. During this invasion, countless netizens, activists, and civilians around the world rose against Putin’s brutal actions. The borders between nations are no longer defined geopolitically, but agentically by conversations. In an internationalized and democratic world, conversations enable us to readjust and destabilize the conventional, now ever-changing borders (Pinar, 2004). The next step of curriculum for us is to define borders ideologically with depth imagery. An authentic conversation requires “going beyond the surface to take into account ‘unspoken’ and ‘taken-for-granted’ assumptions, including ‘ideology’ […and] must be guided by an interest in understanding more fully what is not said by going beyond what is said’’ (Aoki, as cited in Pinar, 2004, p. 159). So far, our democratic discourse/conversations have been based on denouncing Putin’s behaviour, which can be done intuitively and without much effort to engage in deeper conversations. Many who are sceptical of the ideal of democracy perceive it from the frame of reference of cognitive imperialism — ‘fast-food-like’ pedagogy embedded in empty words that lead people into a fallacy that they are endowed with greater freedom than institutions actually allow. Cognitive imperialism largely obscures the construction of conjunctive ‘inter-space’ in conversations while diverting public attention to shallowness of conversations — freedom of expression and individual liberty. What is beyond the unsaid, however, requires a curriculum of critical literacy in which people work together to co-create reciprocal and complex conversations. Our curriculum needs to create democratic agents, not agents in a democratic political structure. Conversation represents a relationship between spaces (not just ‘spaces’), where people engage in mutuality rather than dichotomous struggles of viewpoints. Therefore, when world crises happen, we do not just condemn the aggressor with empty words but act ahead to prevent it. This is how our curriculum can truly be agentic rather than being reactive (to fear).

From the emergence of COVID-19 to the humanitarian crisis in eastern Europe, it has become more necessary than ever for curriculum changes to address how the trauma of war, the separation, and the isolation of life, have lived in and affected our bodies, so we can hold each other’s hands and find our way out of the hardships collectively, rather than kill each other. Ironically, we can learn a lot from coronaviruses; even viruses know how to converse with each other and change according to different situations to achieve their survival goals (Chambers, 2022). I don’t know what the curriculum will look like in the future, but I do know that our curriculum should inspire people to share difficult knowledge, memories, stories, and to explore and confront their fears, not run from them. The purpose of this post is to find ways to encourage people to lift the veil of these unspoken fears, to engage in deep (as opposed to dichotomous) conversations with each other, and to prevent hatred, phobia, and mistrust toward others. To end this post with an excerpt from an interview done with University of Lethbridge professor Cynthia Chambers (2022), “The truth about maps is they’re only useful when you’ve already been somewhere, they’re not really helpful when you’ve never been anywhere [… We have to] find our way collectively and to learn together [under difficult circumstances], rather than looking to authorities for the final answer or being angry that nobody knows” (26:44).

Rise up, Ukraine. We stand with you!

References

Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world’s fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st Century. University Press of America.

JCACS Curriculum Without Borders. (2022, February 23). JCACS interviews Cynthia Chambers: Curriculum as wayfinding. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNAxSJbdBPo

Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

 

 

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Here is a brief look at the Table of Contents for my new book coming out in the next few months, published by Xlibris. Thanks to support from Desh Subba. My goal with this project was to create a 100 pp. book as a basic introduction to most of the important aspects of the philosophy of Fearism as it has evolved to today. I look forward to sharing more of this book in little bits and creating discussion around it in the months ahead. Glad to share this sneak preview with you here: 

CONTENTS

 Preface

 Acknowledgements

       INTRODUCTION: What’s in a Name?, Why Focus on Fear(ism)?

            Time For a Primer on Philosophy of Fearism

            The Search for Fear-Plus

            Fearism Complicates Fear

            Risking to Care Deeply for Fear

 

  1. HISTORY and PEOPLE Behind the Philosophy of Fearism

             Fearism: A Mixed History

                        Fisherian Fearism

                        Subbaian Fearism

                        Subbaian-Fisherian Fearism

 

  1. An INTELLECTUAL MOVEMENT in Philosophy and Beyond

             Founders: From Dyad to The Triad

  1. Michael Fisher

                        Desh Subba

                        Samuel Nathan Gillian Jr.

            Vignettes of the Three Philosophers: Discovering Fearism

 

  1. FEARISM THEORY

             What Philosophers Would Think of Fearism?

                        A Few Fearists’ Imperatives

                        A Few Theories Within Fearism

            Some Philosophical Assumptions and Principles

            Some Critics of Fearism

 

 FEARIST’S QUOTES

 Basic References

 Brief Glossary

 Index

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For full details of this Asian Cinema Call 2022.pdf download here.

The three editors for this Special issue that designed the proposal and will be assisting this project to completion are: 

Rayson K. Alex, Rajitha Venuogpal, R. Michael Fisher 

Deadline for Author's Short Abstract of Proposed Article - August 31, 2022

Final Publication May, 2023

See details inside the Call pdf 

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Figure 1  Philosophical Treatments of Fear (Historically in the Western World) 

 

CONFESSION OF A FEAR CRITIC [1]

-R. Michael Fisher, Ph.D.

Every philosopher, theorist, practitioner in any field of inquiry and endeavor ought to eventually come to a time in their life and career where they re-evaluate their work. This year has been a good one for me as a fear critic to assess what has been happening since I joined the stream of thought throughout time that has investigated "fear." I am feeling like there's a big transition, a growing doubt of some of my premises, and a suspicion that my fearwork may have 'taken a wrong turn.' The longer story is yet to be written. But I at least here in this blog want to offer Figure 1 as a preview of my mapping the historical moves and movements of various philosophers that I believe are quite important to Fear Studies in general. The main aspect of Figure 1 shows the "Positivization" of agendas of various thinkers and their movements as they worked to make the concept and experience of "fear" more positive than was the case for the majority (of their times). They all, more or less believe (and rightly) that "fear" has too often been given a negative valuation over it being positive in humanity and Nature. Although, since 1989, I have been aware of this positivization in various discourses on fear, I was never quite taken-up into the enthusiasm of the positivization movement in Fear Studies. Now, I am re-evaluating that choice on my part? My motivation? My insistance that there was a skewing of reality by this positivization, of which I wrote many critiques of what I called the "fear-positivists" (and/or "fear-positivism"), was maybe a good track to take philosophically but in 2022 I am starting to really wonder if my choice was a good one. 

Therefore in Figure 1 you can see that I have put the "Fisherian" camp of fearwork outside of the main field of positivization of fear camp. You probably know that I chose "fearlessness" as the core strength for my study of fear ('fear') and fearlessness. The others in Figure 1, all whom I respect (and other writers are not shown just to keep this diagram less complicated), are distinct in their working with the fear-fearlessness relationship. To be clear, most all of the fear-positivists are anti-fearlessness (except Subba and some of his followers, and except Four Arrows). The main reason for my re-evaluation at this time is that I have re-discovered the work of Sam Gillian Jr.(1939-2016) in recent months and have begun a serious study of his unique Beckerian and Black existentialism that leads into his philosophy and fear-pedagogy--all of which I believe is so uniquely constructed that it deserves the categorization of Gillianism of Fear. Gillian was not aware of the liberalism of fear and fearism of fear and other writers in the list above, but he was aware of existentialism in general and especially he was influenced by Ernest Becker's work. The latter, I greatly admire and have been studying off and on since the early 1980s before I even began the In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989-). 

I've been reflecting on my own path of fearlessness approach to fear. I have made various philosophical moves and created methodological approaches (e.g., fearanalysis) to accomodate my interest to camp more in the fear-negativist discourse but with a good deal of revision of those discourses that come from history. By no means, was I conforming to only making fear negative--yet, I was compelled to construct 'fear' as a postmodern concept, and situate Fear Studies within a "culture of fear" (and/or 'Fear' Matrix) and thus fearlessness as the main approach gave me a decided edge of negativity towards fear and knowledges constructed on fear. I also felt I was somewhat fear-positive and still do, but lately and with the work of Gillian, my critiques have turned on my own work. I do not believe my trajectory has been very effective, and there is a lot of evidence since 1989 to prove to me my work has faltered in having any real impact out there in the world, in the field of Education or anywhere else. The Fearlessness Movement (and this ning under that name) have been luke-warm to non-existent in real impacts and growth of a powerful modeling of fear mangement/education and/or of liberation in general. It's been a sobering reality of watching this non-productivity of my fearlessness-oriented fearwork. I am seeing that fear-negativity still is strong in my work and that must change to be more effective. Gillian especially has argued persuasively that a truly simple and productive fear management begins with fear-positivity and of course, many others have said this too (see Figure 1). Yet, for various reasons, it was the combination of Ernest Becker's philosophy and Terror Management Theory that arose from it; and then the application of the philosophy and pedagogy of Gillian (a Beckerian) that really made the difference. [see the prior FM blog on Samuel N. Gillian for more background]. 

Basically, the fear-positivism camp offers (likely) 'the best' treatment of fear philosophically, theoretically and practically--for where the "populus" and society as a whole is at. My own work is 20 yrs. ahead (i.e., 'out there' in the stratosphere)--and, I have to admit not very useful at the moment. In the end, I envision a more productive fear management education for the world that the fear-positivists will lead, and I can help serve that movement as well but I will always have my biases--and, perhaps, my fearlessness work will in some way hold a larger perspective for all the good of the fear-positivists; perhaps, my work will keep the fear-posiitivists from falling into traps of their own ideology and shadow(?) I can only speculate, my work has been in an important fear-negative camp for a reason and it is not just some personal fettish but only history will "test" that. I really don't know. What I do know is that there is still a good deal of synthesis required, and good critical analysis, to make the fear-positive camp stronger and more effective. And, really there is not a lot of time to waste for this to happen. If I can help out, do let me know. 

I'll leave this introductory confession right here... for discussion, if anyone is interested. There is a whole course I could teach on Figure 1--that would be a fantastic addition to Fear Studies and fearology, etc. Maybe some day, if there is interest. P.S. the International Journal of Fear Studies is homeless right now, but I am working closely with some colleagues (especially, Rayson K. Alex) to re-locate and re-structure the journal (it may be a year or two down the road before it is operating again).

ADDENDUM

To be sure there are sub-branches of philosophies and thinkers not mentioned in Figure 1, for example, a fascinating movement by Sijin Yan (et al.) on a Levinasianism of Fear and Four Arrows (Wahinkpe Topa) and an Indigenism of Fear, Libertarianism of Fear (Frank Furedi) all could easily be added; and, I suspect there are others I am missing too; note also there are Asian and African variant branches of Fearism of Fear (spurred on by Desh Subba but also some quite independent streams of thought). Also, missing here, is discussion of the role of religion (especially, the Abrahamic traditions) in securing the effective dispositions of a fear-positive theology (e.g., it is good to fear God, Allah, Yahweh)--that these religious discourses are core to cultural development and health is an area for debate. There is also missing here the debate on what a good "pedagogy" re: fear ought to be (?). Typically, the "pedagogy of fear" (e.g., Arie Kizel and others) is always constructed as a fear-negative discourse, for the most part. This really all needs to be unpacked further, and I think Figure 1 offers a larger framework for the evaluation on the nature and role of fear and education (learning) overall. As well, there is the Indigenous (and pre-colonial), post-colonial, Matrixial (feminine), and nondual, pragmatism (Barbara Stengel) and holistic and Integral perspectives (worldviews) that I have left out here--they are not to be taken lightly in their importance for the future development of philosophy of fear (fearlessness). And lastly, I apologize for the largely "Western" slant on this whole discussion and Figure 1 representation. Eastern (and Northern, Southern) perspectives need to map their own field of orienting the major branches of fear-positive and fear-negative discourses. 

Notes: 

1. Fisher, R.M. (2002). On being a 'fear' critic. Technical Paper No. 14. Vancouver, BC: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

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Samuel Nathan Gillian Jr. (1939-2016), MEd. (photo c.1978) [1]

To teach care is to teach fear(fulness)--to teach children to be terrified (in a good way) is education at its foundational best; there is nothing more basic that the human species must engage, and if we neglect this duty, humanity will fail, argues the author Sam Gillian. 

I know of only a couple critical thinkers and philosopher-types who have written more than one book on the subject "fear" in depth. I can think of no black philosopher who has written two books on fear that are in depth. This alone makes Bro. Gillian [2] a central 21st century figure to pay attention to in the philosophy of fear. Because of his life-career (Bronx, NY) as a middle school teacher and adult educator, his two books [3] are key to any study and articulation of a "pedagogy of fear." I guarantee you dear reader, Gillian is quite controversial (even radical) and will in spirit and rational thought challenge many assumptions typical of progressive education philosophy and child-rearing, care-giving etc. I think he is a progressive educator of the highest calibre but he is fiercely independent in how he thinks about progress and progressive ideas related to fear. That's what makes him a unique philosopher with lots to teach. 

He is incredibly clear in his writing and thus I would say his work is "the best" there is out there on fear, for the person on the street, so to speak, when it comes to being applicable ideas to ponder and apply immediately to our lives. His books are not shallow over-simplified "self-help" in the typical psychological way. They are more philosophical reflections and at times they are 'sermons.' He has integrated many others' thought throughout his years of study of fear [4], which began in 1972, he tells us in his brief bio. in his first book. He is an expert on fear, no doubt about it. His contribution to a good quality "fear education" is so needed today and in the future.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, his work is virtually unheard of in larger circles and in academia. I plan to write an intellectual biography of his life and work and reverse this invisibility. I look forward to anyone who wishes to discuss the "Gillianism of fear" (as I call it) [5]. 

[note: Prof. Cornel West has some similar notions as Gillian, e.g., https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/centralizing-of-the-calamitous-philosophy-in-the-key-of-terror]

 

End Notes

1. Thanks to Bernice Gillian, Sam's wife, for this photograph. 

2. Bro. Sam or Bro. Gillian are terms I use as endearment and respect, and I have only used such because of Sam's own proclivity to do so with me (e.g., see the photo above where I overlapped the portrait of him with his book signing signature "Bro. Sam" and it was addressed to me as "Bro. Michael" in the inside cover of his second book I had purchased from him in 2005.

3. The Beauty of Fear (2002) and Terrified by Education (2005), by Phemore Press, his own publishing company. He published no other works under that press nor did he write any other books than these two. It is hard to find copies of these, but if interested you may try contacting Bernice who may sell you a copy of these titles sbgill4273@aol.com

4. E.g., he was a big fan of the existentialist Ernest Becker, but also the likes of Jiddu Krishnamurti, Alan Watts and many others. Very eclectic (E-W) reading underlies his philosophy.

5. Contact me: r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

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Glad to announce this new book, initiated and led by B. Maria Kumar and most of his essays, and I respond to them. (Indra Publishing House, 2022)

I think readers will find us as two fearists in a creative exchange that was a lot of fun for me to be involved. One may even learn something new about the "human" from this book. 

 
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This excerpt (first draft only) is a small piece to give you a sense of what I am 'onto' these days, especially in writing this tenth book (to be published later this year by Information Age Publishing, in their Philosophy of Education Series, Ed. Dr. John Petrovic) [1]. I have been working months and months, and it has been quite a ploughing the soil. Hard going at times. This Chapter Five took weeks to complete, as I just did this morning. Wow! It is by far the largest chapter in the book (coming in at a heavty 25,000 words itself, without the references). Yikes.

A number of fresh insights came from the writing that I could put into it, so that was good. It is never a boring writing because I risk all the time, on the edge of not knowing what I am doing and not creating chapter outlines. I just start writing. 

As always, I trust this bit of expository on fear will intrigue you to critique, to commnent, here on the FM ning. And/or you can always email me directly: 

r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

Notes

1. Excerpt from Fisher, R. M. (in progress). The Fear Problematique: Role of Philosophy of Education in Speaking Truths to Power in a Culture of Fear. 

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This is the inside back cover of the Bio. for Samuel Nathan Gillian (1939-2015). I had a friendly (email relationship) with Sam since May 2004 until March 2005. And recently with one of his nieces (thankfully) contacting me--now I am in conversation with his wife Bernice, and there is a new project on my plate to write an intellectual biography on SNG. Just wanted to let you all know that. He has written two amazing books on fear (and education) [1], and I know of no one who has done that, and especially with him being an African-American black man, again, I know of no black person who has written two major books on fear; this combination puts his work out as an important historical record in Fear Studies. Intellectually, he developed some close links at one point with the Ernest Becker Foundation and he absorbed the writings of Ernest Becker. Sam was likely an existential thinker. Bernice says, with a great "zest for life." He also puts his own spin on fear and how best to relate to it, based on his life's experience and being one who loved children and teaching. In 2020 I wrote a technical paper on my initial connections with Sam and why he and I had our overlapping same interests and our differences about fear and fearlessness [2]. 

IF ANYONE has further information, of any kind, about SNG, please contact me: r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

FYI: I just posted May 10/22 on "Cornel West" (see FM ning)-- as it is truly West's liberal-radical philosophy that in many ways (not all) is very much akin to Gillian's philosophy.

Notes: 

1. Gillian, S. N. (2002). The Beauty of Fear: How to Positively Enjoy Being Afraid. Phemore Press, Inc.; Gillian, S. N. (2005). Terrified by Education: Teaching Children to Fear Learning. Phemore Press, Inc. 

2. Fisher, R. M. (2020). Samuel N. Gillian's Beckerian Educational Philosophy of Fear/Terror. Technical Paper No. 102. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. 

 

 

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Untitled by Amaris - watercolor on paper, Feb. 17, 2022   (published with permission)

This image is recently created from a participant in a Spontaneous Creation-Making (SCM) group session (on Zoom), which Barbara and I had initiated decades ago, and currently Hallie is running a group. It is amazing what births shows up when we have time to connect communally, slow down, and then each go off into our own homes for 25 min. creating something completely unplanned. One does not need to be an artist to do this. All medium and found objects, and performances, have shown up over the years. This one above happens to be a stunning water-color painting. Barbara and I have called this SCM practice and the care that goes in sharing the creations in the group sacred circle after, a 'fear' vaccine process since the early 1990s. Why? I'll get to that later. 

First, I'll share the story of the 'artist' (creator Amaras) behind this image, as they recently shared this image from a SCM session, as I was interested to put a quote to the piece. I discovered the quote some days after in reading a book entitled "Mary Magdalene Revealled" (by Megan Watterson) of which Barbara was reading and showed me some quotes related to fear in the soul/archetypal register of experience. So, here is the quote that I found and immediately. It seemed like a 'response' to the painting and how it was shared that night on Zoom. 

Watterson wrote in a poetic-trance like 'prayer':

"IF I could start again, it would be in the darkness. 

And in the darkness, all we would see is a hand suddenly extending out toward us.

And the invitation would be terrifying. 

Seeing this hand would compel our heart to start beating....

The fear comes from feeling out of control. 

We want to leave and we want to stay in equal measure.

We want to know what might happen next and for everything to remain exactly the same. 

Taking this hand is a choice to surrender." (p. 13) 

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Amaris replied to the quote: 

"This is an absolutely incredible gift...It captures the feeling that I had while painted--fear and rebirth, including moving through fear and lack of control within the internal space. Fear that holds immobile in stasis but can give way to room for creation and joy. Thank you so much. 

When I mentioned I wanted to publish their creation, they wrote, "I would love to read a blog about art and fear. These are themes that resonate with me very much, especially as it relates to phobia of one's inner experience. Art has been such a part of that personal exploration for me regarding this fear."

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I suggest anyone reading this, take time also to be with the creation--and imagine its creating--itself. Wet and unabashedly a singularity of flow and ecstasy, and of course, with all birthing there is fear, perhaps terror, perhaps many sensations and feelings that only later we conceptualize as terror. The painting itself is important also as a process, not merely for Amaris, as she connects memories and investigates the "phobia of one's inner experience"--as she wrote of it later. It is important collectively, and that is significant for the group of SCM with it happening. What an interesting phrase that is. Like their painting emerging, a phobia is emerging to the light, with all the attention of the creator/artist entering into the unknown and unexpected that began with a paper with 'nothing' on it and then the materials and water and colors and rhythms became alive, like a "surrender" --and, ultimately this creation process is still going on, and is now going on in this digital medium of a blog.

I share this all because of the art itself and the process of SCM which I highly recommend as a practice of liberation--and, yes, I also share this 'story' because it challenges what Alan Watts wrote of (Zen style) in the 1970s in a book, I always enjoy going back to, "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are." In oppressive societies that 'shut down' early in our lives the full re-membering of the matrixial (mother-child-birthing)--and deny its true importance to our being on this planet in a body--I think arts-expressive modalities are a tremendous gift to 'touch' again the rich sensory experiences of who we really are--embodied that is, and yes, for us to stand back and feel the "room for creation and joy" as Amaris says. 

So many layers of interpreting and being/with are possible here... I am mostly aware of the power and healing that comes from wit(h)nessing, as Bracha Ettinger speaks of it and when 'more than one attends the fear' and re-births the fear--as communal practice in a sanctuary of art-care. My acknowledgement of gratitude to Amaris for sharing this with us. 

Thanks be, to Creation. 

   

 

 

 

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Christine Breese, Ph.D., University of Metaphysical Sciences, and from Wisdom of the Heart Church (non-profit 501(c)3), offered in 2011 a free book entitled: 

"Fearlessness In the 2012 Paradigm Shift" (here is free copy in pdf.

I have not read too much detail but scanned her Table of Contents --and it is interesting for sure. A few highlights: "Paradigms Are Built to Fight Change, It's Natural" and "Hypnosis in Fear For The Masses" and Chapter 5 "Facing Fear" and "What Does a Fearless Life Look Like?" 

Those are all topics that interest me a lot as a fearologist. I'm writing my own book now on The Fear Problematique, and a core of what I need to articulate is the importance of what a Fearlessness Paradigm, contra a Fear Paradigm is all about. And, then link that to a fearlessness philosophy and theories and finally to education as a field. 

Anyways, you folks may want to check out her book here. It's historical of course, that 10 years ago there was a lot of 'new age' hype, especially in the astrological and metaphysical communities about some critical juncture of alignments and ancient Mayan calendars, etc... whereby, a "quantum leap" in the evolution of consciousness and humanity was being predicted--albeit, Breese admits in the book apparently, one cannot ever totally predict such things in terms of when--yet, there is a transformation going on she asserts, along with many others. And, I have been hearing about this since at least the early 1980s--and, especially with another big celestial and astrological event in 1987, of which I found so many new ager types of folks way too optimistic about what was going to happen at that juncture on a particular day, etc. I think the evidence is clear that these people exaggerate things yet, I am also not one to put them down for their enthusiasm generally for the need to transform the paradigms of the day. I like that Breese in particular has identified "fear" and "fearlessness" as significant vectors for this transformation. I agree!. 

 

 

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Aesthetic Way of Expanding the Study of Fear

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I've long been a believer that artists, and the aesthetic mode of thinking, feeling, acting (that is, the arational) is a more effective way to change our fixed and overly-conditioned ways of thinking about anything--especially "fear" itself. So, in the above 'play' I situate two major concepts, and phenomena, and now they sit within a 'taoist' model or philosophical system of thought and imagination. I wonder what new could be discovered if this re-mapping of both Taoist philosophy and the understanding of fear in general could be adopted--as a thought experiment. So, if any of you want to try and play with it. I'd love to see what you come up with. 

 

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Trinity is Fearless: The Matrix Teachings

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There are so many things one could say about this new film. I'll hold back for now, as I want to watch it a few more times before I write too much. However, there is a clear picture of the morphing notion of "The One" and what the latest movie Resurrections makes of it, with Trinity coming into her own--and, in fact women generally coming into their own to challenge the men characters and designers of The Matrix which controls human's lives (for the most part). The control pretty much declared throughout the four films since 1999 of The Matrix, as control via fear-- that is, when a fear choice is taken over a love choice. The enactment to reclaim the love choice, is however, made clear to me (at least) is about fearlessness--call it "fearless"--but it is fearlessness nonetheless--utter and shown as a harder choice (it seems) for women (and mothers) than for men. But, I'll let you all decide what dramatics are going on in this great piece of art--again, congrats to those who all made this latest film possible. I do trust the teachings from it will have more impact, 20 years later, in this self-reflective work with a critical edge. 

What are the Matrix teachings?, you may ask. They are, based on my study of this film series since 1999, a most poignant and deeply powerful set of "fearlessness teachings"--of the Fearlessness Movement--and, if viewers miss that, it's sad, but truly most people don't see the full depth in this art work project. It's profound. And it is available to learn from. 

 

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IT IS NOT VERY OFTEN I come across a really interesting paper on "fear", and this one by Bogun (2016), is extra-ordinarily interesting to my fearologist-self. 

I won't say more in this Intro blog, but will give you all a chance to look at it and chime in on Comments. Just to note: --scanning the paper, I see the major discouse (pattern, system) that is operating in Bogun as a philosopher very keen about fear and its role, is "FMS-5" (as "fearmap" or code-categorization of my schema)--and, to remind you there are 10 FMSs available to humans at this time, that I can identify categorically as an overall evolutionary theory of fear management systems (FMSs). But, I'll leave it there for now... 

Hope you have a glance at this first page, and realize this author (seemingly from Ukraine) is quite a fascinating scholar. It's my first encounter with them in the fear literature. 

 

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John Dewey on Fear and Binaries

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The eminent early 20th century
American philosopher John Dewey... 

In this above quote, he is on his grand project (to restore "experience" to philosophy)--to debunk all binaries, so it seems. E.g., Life vs. Education, is a good place to start that deconstruction.

Then he goes on, in a passage analogously, where he critiques those that derogate the "lower" aspects of reality (so-called) vs. the "higher" aspects of reality (so-called) that have become so common by the 20 th century in philosophy, and education philosophy and psychology. He wrote of these sensory aspects: 

"Since sense-organs with their connected apparatus are the means of participation [with reality, with Life, with living organisms], any and every derogation of them, whether practical or theoretical, is at once effect and cause of a narrowed and dulled life-experience. Oppositions [i.e., binaries] of mind and body, soul and matter, spirit and flesh all have their origin, fundamentally, in fear of what life may--bring forth. They are marks of contraction and withdrawal [i.e., fear-based]." (Dewey, 1934, pp. 22-3). 

This is not the only passage I have been reading from Dewey, in my recent study of his writing, where I am reading into and between the lines, and sometimes reading explicit calling out of fear in our knowledge and knowing systems--like it is a massive weight on us and life-forces, it is like he is speaking a language of fearlessness. I'll be writing a chapter on his philosophy (fearlessness) and education for my new book The Fear Problematique (2022)... more  to come. 

[NOTE: for another of my FM blogs on Dewey and fear and fearlessness go to: https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/holy-rant-john-s-dewey-s-fearlessness-project]

 

Reference

Dewey, J. (1934/2005). Art as Experience. Penguin Group.

 

 

 

 

 

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This 1960 classic free-school alternative book is about child-rearing and education. The organization begun by A. S. Neill and others in the UK was a "school" by definition and that was to serve a parent community who wanted their children to have an entirely different experience of learning in and as part of a living residential community. They remained a "school" in order to get some funding from the government, and to follow the curriculum requirements to some degree re: the State, because they still wanted to hire teachers and be able to mentor the students/learners to achieve what they wanted to achieve if they wanted to go on to access the channels of higher education, which some children chose, while many did not. There was no requirement ever that the child would be forced to attend lessons. It was their choice how they wanted to spend the day as long as they did not hurt themselves or others or damage the community's property. In that sense, Neill believed the only radical way to fully commit to building a new society not based on fear, was to build a community not based on fear.

Some of you may know that I have long studied the alternative education movements since my late 20s. I also was a public school teacher for two years. All these experiences have led me to now working in a burgeoning new school, Nanaimo Innovation Academy (NIA), which started as a daycare (for 4 years) and is now a kindergarten, with a proposed grade 1-2 class starting this next fall in 2022 if all permits are granted and the parents show up to support our non-profit private school operation. My role thus far is "policy consultant", albeit, I have also just completed a five months artist residency at NIA where I worked from an artist's point of view, which included working with all members of the community in some way--I was interested in the whole organization and larger community and "everything was my medium" for artistic expression and exchange with all involved. I'm doing upcoming artist talks and websites on this project which I shall let you know about later. I had some lovely and interesting and not so pleasant interactions at times with my "medium" as one would expect in any community. But one of the things in the back of my mind during the residency was "How do we all deal with fear?" 

NIA founder and Director, Keely Freeman has been gracious in allowing me to slowly integrate and find my way into this new school community. She is someone very practical and in that sense not overly radical in her approach to a daycare/school culture, yet, at a recent staff meeting she held up this book by A. S. Neill, and said, with pride that this means a lot to her to be part of a legacy of trying to bring 'alternative education' to children and families in this world. I was touched. So, I'm starting to look at what might we at NIA glean from the "Summerhill" experiment in child-raising and education today. Note, several Summerhill-type schools have grown from the original movement started in the UK. A. S. Neill is no longer with us but has left a powerful message of possibilities and this book he wrote about his experiment in 1920s- onward is worth reading. I'm just allowing myself to dip into it and see what I think about it. As my first reading about Summerhill was back in the early 1980s and then late 1990s a bit but I didn't go further. I was aware of several educators as critics publishing about Summerhill and giving it a bad name in those years. I have not made up my own mind about that aspect of how good it was or bad it was empirically. That's really hard to assess.

As I turn to begin a brief fearanalysis of Neill's philosophy, I realize neither Neill and the faculty and parents may not have written and published or talked much about a "fearless school" that was their ideal for themselves, and as a model for the rest of society. I do sense they wanted to show society that it was possible and their school was an experimental case study. So, it was not perfect and they worked out a lot of the kinks in their system and culture by learning as they went. That is admirable. IF I was starting a school today, I would want to do the same. However, it is near impossible to find enough parents in the world where I live to be truly interested in entering into such a community and school experiment. People are way more freaked out these days, and thus more conformist, than the 1960s-70s, and maybe also compared to the 1920s when A. S. Neill began the Summerhill experiment. 

I find parents and teachers and just about all leaders very much caught in the "culture of fear" overall. This is a global cultural phenomenon I have written about extensively for over 3 decades. Education if it is to remain in its integrity (and much in line with a free-schooling conception as A. S. Neill argued for), is going to have to confront its relationship (i.e., its collusion with) the growing insidious culture of fear. 

Fearanalysis has many possible directions of starting to assess anyone or anything. For simplicity, I scanned the back chapters of the classic book by Neill (above), and saw on page after page of how he responds to many of the questions that came to him as founder of Summerhill, he often was talking in his answers to the issue of fear. In fact, I believe he was doing that because most of the questions he received, often had fear at their base of motivation for being asked. For example, the questions about the freedom of children and youth in the Summerhill community to have access to sex. Neill, answers, they are as an organization and school not telling kids not to have sex, not to masturbate. All humans have a right to enjoy the sexuality of their bodies alone or with others, and Neill is not at all interested in creating taboos and rules about that. He wanted to raise children who were not afraid of adults and/or the laws and authority of adultworld in general. What was truly educative for him, and I agree, is when educative experience transcends the dependency socialization of young people based on fear-induction-learning (or "shock learning" via punishment regimines). "Control" is such a tricky concept and Neill wanted as least amount of it as possible in regard to what children feel, think and do. Adults/parents/caregivers can be children's worst enemy, he would likely have argued, and I hear that as I scan the pages of his book and the answers to his questions. I and some others have called this adult-child relationship one that is riddled with adultism, oppression in one of its base forms, from the start--it is part of a culture of fear dynamic. I won't go into more details in this blogpost but if you are interested in more quotes and details from the book and want more discussion, I'll do so. Just post comments below, or sign-up or sign-in on the FM ning and write your own blogposts. 

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Bertrand Russell (1926) on Fear and Fearless

Bertrand Russell, the great UK philosopher, wrote a 1926 book "On Education" with implications for especially early childhood rearing, socialization and education (e.g., schooling). Interestingly, I am just reading this for the first time, and I see some really good signs that this will be a useful book in the history of Fear Studies, and especially the history of fear in educational philosophy. 

Russell has evoked me several times to quote him (from this book), especially his line around wisdom and fear, and around fearless mothers and fearless children as well. For purposes of this blog, I want to focus on why he thought love and fear were so crucial to child rearing and society's health in general. He ends his book with "A thousand ancient fears obstruct the road to happiness and freedom." (p. 206) During the book he makes a distinction that irrational fears are the biggest problem, rational fears are important--albeit, a big problem can come when a child, for example, has not the adequate rational fears online and operative and that puts the child at risk to dangers it normally would rationally be afraid of. He talks about his wife and him trying out many of these things about fear management with their own two children in the earliest years 1-4 yr olds. 

Again, on the final paragraph of the book he wrote, "But love can conquer fear, and if we love our children nothing can make us withold the great gift which is is in our power to bestow." (p. 206). One has to realize that Russell was a secularist-humanist philosopher, yet, here he is articulating what all the great spiritual/religious teachings also argue as a basic premise/theory about love and fear. That's a whole topic for study itself. Is this true, that love can conquer fear? What does conquer mean? On p. 71 he describes how an irrational fear in children (or anyone) ought to not be left alone to just disappear or skirt around too much. Russell says it "should be gradually overcome" as an important aspect of healthy developmental growth and learning. "Overcome" as a behavioral and emotional aspect, seems to be what Russell means by "conquer" in other parts of his text. 

In helping his own children to overcome fear(s), Russell tells us at one point, controversial I am sure it will be: "A grown-up [e.g., parent, teacher] person in charge of a child should never feel fear" --meaning, express it it in front of a child and when trying to teach a child to have mild rational fear of a potential danger the child needs to learn about (e.g., like a sharp knife edge, or cliff edge). Now, if an adult around a child is to be fully responsible for the best interests and growth and learning for a child, and to make them feel loved and not afraid of the world around them too much, then Russell argues it is best to "never feel" or express fear in your teaching children lessons or warnings. I tend to agree with this because of the unpredictable (if not traumatic) ways a child may take in the concrete message from the adult but also the affect-tracing lingerings of the adult into their emotional (if not soul level) aspects of their being. Adults have that kind of powerful impact potential on children's psyche/soul, is my claim, and many others but here we see Russell the philosopher (and father) saying the same thing. His cautionary goes on to say: " That is one reason why courage should be cultivated in women just as much as in men." (p. 72). There's a few arguments he makes later in the book about the sexes and the dynamics of fear and timidity, etc. He wants both sexes to be hardy and courageous --and even fearless. Again, he focuses at times on women's major role here in child development of fearlessness: 

"One generation of fearless women could transform the world...by bringing into it a generation of fearless children".... and "Education is the key" to this accomplishment. On my part, that is true and is exactly why I offer an upgraded theory and praxis called critical Fear Management/Education or simply Fear Education for the 21st century. Russell's philosophy of education, it turns out, is very supportive of my initiative. 

Anyone have some thoughts about all this?

Reference

Russell, B. (1926/2003). On education. Routledge.

 

 

 

 

 

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