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Anyone who takes the Fearlessness Movement seriously, has also to take seriously the past, current and future state of our "fear education" (analogous to say, "sex education"). I mean, the Fearlessness Movement is a mega-form of "fear management" no matter how you look at. Thus, one of the primary conceptions I have used for decades is "fear management/education" (FME). I keep asking, since 1989, where does one get a really high quality FME these days... or whenever, in the history and evolution of our species. I know a big question... 

So, just for curiosity sake, I asked today, "If I (or anyone) is going to inquire about the nature and role of fear (which seems a good starting point)... and I (or anyone) wanted to do a quick scan of the literature and discussions around this phrase and its intention to improve our FME... then, what would I (or anyone) find?" 

Here is my summary of the current scan of Google Scholar, Google Books, and the Internet Web [I realize there are other searches in academic Indexes, and libraries, but they are much harder to access]... these 3 primary sources of knowledge today, worldwide, if one has a computer at hand show the following results to the search for "nature and role of fear" (specially, as those words): 

Google Scholar - the first 6 references that show up with information are mine, then a few others, and then mostly mine-- Total is 13 references (77% are mine)

Google Books - the first reference is mine, the second a dissertation in Classics Studies in 2008 at Univ. of Michigan-- not more, that's it! 

Internet Web - the first reference is mine, the second is the same 2008 dissertation, and next 5 are mine, next a German journal article on tragedy writing, next 4 are mine, next a journal article in Spanish history, next mine, next a populist blog on Batman -- Total 14 references (71% are mine)


Wow, it astounds me how this very fundamental inquiry phrase "the nature and role of fear" is so rare on these massive searches above... the one conclusion, from this scan, is that yours truly is a world expert on the topic, and secondly, that my work dominates the topic--at least in terms of a search of the literature on the internet three sources above ... 

Of course, if you were to search just "fear" the story would be completely different because of hundreds of thousands of references using that search term-- but then, you can see, I am interested in where to go for a good quality FME... and, asking about the "nature and role of fear" (individually, or collectively) seems so fundamental to any depth of questioning and insights to gather... but there you go, clearly I seem quite alone in seeing things this way... apparently. It is quite a shock to my sensibility on one level to see this dirth of information around that query phrase, and at the same time, I am not surprised, as I have been saying for decades that it is near impossible to find a good quality FME on this planet! More evidence was gathered today, as far as I am concerned... for my concern. 

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Here are a couple excepts from the Foreword(s) in Desh Subba and my new book Philosophy of Fearism: A First E-W Dialogue (forthcoming, Xlibris): 

             You are about to eavesdrop on a most important dialogue. Poetic, provocative and exciting, this engagement with “fearism” might also be, well, frightening. One thing that emerges from this radical conversation between the two most eminent fearologists in the world is that each of us must make vital choices that determine if and how we might escape the growing dangers that relate to our inability to manage fear effectively. And making such choices can be a scary proposition for many.

            What makes this text so valuable is not just the authors’ freewheeling, challenging thoughts that stem from years of contemplating their subject, but the fact that it is being discussed at all. Although people in most cultures know about the importance of courage, few have had the opportunity to learn how to employ it consistently and effectively. Dr. Fisher and Desh Subba offer reflections from two very different cultural orientations that can lead to our becoming “connoisseurs of fear,” (a phrase I once borrowed from the courageous author, Sam Keen (1999), for a chapter title in my 1998 book, Primal Awareness.) This book thus offers a unique break from the status-quo avoidance that surrounds the topic of fear, if one can muster the courage to tackle the subject. 

Four Arrows (Dr. Don Trent Jacobs)- Professor, School of Educational Leadership & Change, Fielding Graduate School, Sequim, WA


           In late 2014, Mr. Subba called me and informed me about Dr. R. Michael Fisher's (2014) Technical Paper 51. I became curious and read it. Really, it was amazing. My dreams  had come true, it was there. That paper was the first internationally supported document of Fearism, and fortunately very similar thought was now available coming from the West. I made many copies and distributed them among writers. Subba also sent copies to  N.E. India. Now, with the publishing of Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue, there is a very important blueprint for global fearism, built on friendship, philosophical exchange, and open-minded thinking about the Philosophy of Fearism as it moves through a new door to the wide world. This latest work is an excellent foundation for authors, scholars, students and philosophical lovers. I wish the book and its authors all the best. 

Dr. Tanka Prasad Neupane, Professor, and Chairman, Fearism Study Center, Dharan, Nepal

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New Wikipedia Entry: Fearism

Hi folks, just wanted to announce I have completed the ms. "Philosophy of Fearism: A First E-W Dialogue" with co-author Desh Subba and we're going to be publishing it with Xlibris, Australia soon. Because of my research on this book I have completed also a summary of FEARISM and its uses on Wikipedia. I think you may enjoy reading this to get a feel for this topic as well as the Fearlessness Movement initiative in relation to it. 

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I've begun working recently on a paper with the working title, Returning Home: After Our "Escape from Freedom". It's subtitle, "Global Society's Evolutionary Future from an Integral Perspective" helps frame the envisioned content:

"This paper reflects a comprehensive overview from an integral perspective of a contemporary unfolding of Western culture’s evolutionary path. Consequently, and focusing reflectively on the last century in particular, it proffers the viewpoint that an ever-pervading “complexity” consciously perceived as changing “life conditions”, serves to frame and subsequently inform the developmental trajectory of global civil society. Similarly, but assessing humankind’s “spiritual” disposition underpinning the unprecedented toll of devastation wrecked on itself over the 20th Century alone, this perspective articulates a groundwork for effecting a shift in conscious awareness with the capability to transform planetary ecosystems."

The paper's conceptual theme will be interwoven from, and revolve around, various interrelated ideas including Erich Fromm's, "Escape from Freedom"; Campbell's"Hero's Journey"; Otto Scharmer's, "Theory U" (see image above) and these interconnected via an integral perspective arising through Dustin DiPerna's current work with "Integral Spiritual Development". 

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Remember the folk wisdom: Never judge a book by its cover. There's a metaphor there as well as a concrete and literal truth. And, of late with my discovery (below) one could add to this folk wisdom, and Never judge a philosopher by their books-- that is, unless you've really looked into them all in fine-detail. 

In the past couple days, due to meeting some interesting people and a project they have cooking in Murphysboro, IL (1), I've been researching in an area I have not looked at as intensely in the past as I ought to have. And, a good couple lessons it taught me: one of them being, that just when I thought I spent decades getting to know the literature in the field of Education, and thought I knew most of what educators (from scholars to practitioners) had and/or were saying seriously about fear and fearlessness (that's my speciality)... ahhhhh... 

I have to say I am a bit "shocked" that I have finally found a Western philosopher-educator, thought by many to be The Greatest Philosopher in America in the 19th-20th Century era--none other than John Dewey (1859-1952), writing a "holy rant" (prophetic) piece on fear and fearlessness.

My second lesson in finding this prophetic gem (quoted below), is that I have bolstered my respect for Dewey's life and work by a whole lot of positive notches. Fact is, I never liked Dewey (meaning his writing)--nor, did I like the male philosophers at UBC (my alma mater) who were so off-putting because they were Dewey experts and I hadn't read much Dewey. I tried getting into his work a few times in my undergrad and graduate years and later but... it bored me.

I should have read Dewey, after all I was in Education becoming a teacher and later a curriculum and pedagogy scholar and so you have to read John Dewey (it's part of the educational culture and W. canon)--but I preferred reading a lot of others and mostly I enjoyed reading the educational philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti (2) and others (primarily, Eastern type philosophers or my fav was E-W integral philosophers like Ken Wilber). I was not (still am not) a big fan of the philosophy of pragmatism he advanced in America during his life, with great success I might add--he had enormous impact in this country at many levels and I felt it the moment I moved here.

The Center for Dewey Studies was just one block away from where Barbara and I moved in to rent a house. And, part of the "awakening" in myself and others here is that SIU just bull-dozed that Center to the ground yesterday and relocated (3), with several disturbed people (myself included) taking pictures of the devastation. One by-stander told me "it is so violent" how the university administrators have only an interest in profit and have disrespect for history, and tradition (i.e., John Dewey). What they mean is there is an increasing disrespect for the Arts & Humanities in the current university system all across this country and many other W. countries. Yes, right here in Carbondale is one of the best collections of Dewey's work in the world. It attracts an ongoing stream of international scholars, and apparently Dewey has never been so popular in other countries around the world, while his reputation in America has fallen considerably since his death (albeit, with small revivals now and then). And guess what? I never ever went in that Center since I lived here, now 7 yrs. I rode by it on my bike many times, and looked in the windows, but could never get myself to go in, even though I thought of doing so. I should have but I had no calling strong enough. There were too many brewing arguments in my scholarly head, filled with complaints of why I didn't like Dewey's work (i.e., it didn't fit my way of thinking) (4). I suppose I was also ticked that Dewey got so much attention here and it felt like there was no philosophical room for my own views. All of that was part of my alienating feelings as a Canadian coming to live in the USA for the first time. A lot of mixed feelings there, as I have been an out and out critic of much of America's philosophy and politics (mainstream that is, Americanism as ideology, etc.). I didn't think Dewey's work was critical or radical enough. But now I realize that was a short-sighted judgment (5). Oooops!

Okay, my great excitement was to discover a passage published in 1922, from an interview with Dewey by Charles W. Wood, and I just thought of a great piece of art to accompany Dewey's Holy Rant on the role of fear and fearlessness in American education (then and now, as his rant so applies to everything today, 93 years later). 

Art work by Art Young (entitled: "This World of Creepers", c. 1907 [15 yrs. before Dewey's published Holy Rant on fear and fearlessness], published in a political magazine I found in the library stacks at UBC in my graduate years (unfortunately I didn't right down the exact reference info. and haven't been able to find it again). Oh, this image is slightly 'touched up' by yours truly as I added the 'ISM' part in the original version. I love that the artist (Young) was tapping into the climate of increasing fear and its consequences in the world (America) at the time of post-WWI, and it is rather earth-shaking, spine-shaking, to me the prophecy in Art Young's piece and John Dewey's piece (below). These are both markers of the history of fear and fearlessness that has been left out of the history books, I'm sorry to say, it is sad. I really need to write my own version of the history of these fascinating and important ideas/realities-- fear and fearlessness, and their dynamic relationship. Mostly, what is missing is the history of fearlessness! (I have found at least five good scholarly works on the history of fear). So, why the absence of a history of fearlessness (especially, in the West)? See my recent technical paper "What is the West's Problem with Fearlessness?" (scroll down the web page link to find a pdf). 

John Dewey on Fear & Fearlessness

[This is not the complete interview, nor the complete text from the summary of the interview by Charles W. Wood in 1922, just after Dewey had returned from a long visit to China; this article was originally published as Wood, C. W. (1922). Professor John Dewey on the hysteria which holds teaching in check. New York World, 27, Aug.; the current excerpt [reprinted version] below is from Boydston, J. A. (Ed.) (2008). Report of Interview with Dewey (by Wood, C. W.), In John Dewey, the middle works, 1899-1924, Vol. 13, 1921-22 (pp. 425-32). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press]

[with bold added for emphasis] [Dewey:] "The greatest enemy to human progress is fear. People generally tell the truth unless they are afraid to--afraid of punishment, afraid of someone's opinion or afraid that some competitor will gain an advantage. A large percentage of human ills is due to greed, but back of greed lies the sense of insecurity and its accompanying fear. Fear is the soil in which wars are bred. Fear engenders hate. Individually and socially, wherever human life and human relations become inhuman, we are quite sure to discover that they have been poisoned by fear. Cowardice in public office, cowardice in business dealings, cowardice in international relations--we are all more or less familiar with the havoc wrought by these; but the most insidious poison I know of in modern society is cowardice on the part of those who are charged with the responsibility of teaching our youth" 

[that open's Wood's article, and Wood responds to it:] "Before I tell you who said it, I wish you all read that paragraph again. Find a flaw in it if you can."

[Dewey continues:] "And the boys and girls in our New York schools... are not getting half a chance. They are the victims of an inherent timidity, if not an active intimidation, within our school system. There can be no real education unless there is fearlessness, but New York teachers are not free to teach. The situation in this respect is worse, it seems to me, than it ever was before.... [re: his critique of "training" vs. true "education"] But the very basis of such training is fear of what they [the child] may do without it. When we are trying to draw out human intelligence , there must be no such fear.... the system is now additionally cursed by a set of silly laws conceived in fear and born in political hysteria [culture of fear] which seized this country during and immediately after the war.... The public now would like to return to sanity: But unless it provides some antidote for those poisonous [fear-based] laws, the minds of our children generally must suffer incalculably.... The school authorities, in the very nature of their organization, cannot be trusted with this task. They are, to say the least, timid. It is their nature [fear habit] to travel the beaten paths. They are afraid of innovations. They are necessarily afraid to run counter to the public wishes.... [and what we must do, he says] see to it that this haunting fear is eliminated from our school life [and society]."


If I am over-zealously reading Dewey, forgive me for my ignorance, and passion, it is just that it seems obvious this mild-mannered philosopher is going for the juglar vein, with no holds barred. That's prophetic pedagogy and philosophy of the kind very rare to see in the Western world, especially in the Education field. But it was the 1920s. I wonder if Dewey ever came back to these poignant points and arguments and fleshed them out? I am going to find out. I wonder if all the hundreds of scholars who have taken up to critique and follow Dewey's legacy, with multiple angles of interpretations, do they write about this interview on fear and fearlessness? Why have I never seen this referenced in my 26 yrs of researching on fear and fearlessness? I'm sort of thinking that perhaps no one has picked up on the holy rant of Dewey in 1922, which I am dubbing as John Dewey's Fearlessness Project. Again, I caution myself that perhaps I am overly reading into Dewey's grand philosophical and educational (and political) project... and, it then seems clear as a bell when I re-read and re-read his interview extracts here. Thank you Charles W. Wood (if you are still alive) for bringing this holy rant out of Dewey and publishing it. Thank you all the Dewey followers for reprinting it (note: in a book/journal issue published in Carbondale, IL by SIU Press in 2008). I haven't read it in the complete yet, and will do so soon. 

John Dewey's Fearlessness Project is not a label I use lightly, it is however one I am totally glad to apply and I am considering (after more research, perhaps) to end up including Dewey's movement in progressive education and philosophy in America (19th-20th century) as a contributing "Fearlessness Movement" initiative and add it to the Wikipedia on that topic. One outstanding question is can a pragmatist (6) like Dewey be prophetic (are they supposed to be, based on the definition of pragmatism and its history in American philosophy and as American philosophy)? I won't go on and on here with so many questions that arise, some very troubling as to the 'absence' of this holy rant in all my scouring the Educational field (albeit, I will say I have found other W. critical thinkers, and educators saying very similar things to Dewey in the above--but that's another article; I'm wondering if they had read Dewey's rant or it was picked up in them by osmosis--matrixial threads--unconscious collective archetypes?)--I trust some of you may like to comment on this. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Oh, one last (very interesting) thought, according to a Dewey scholar (Ryan, 1997, p. 80), it was Alice Chirman, Dewey's wife (1886 on) who gave Dewey three things he need, says Ryan, "The first was fearlessness about the ideas and opinions of the rest of the world" -- the other two things (note) follow from that gift... now there is a great feminist, womanist, feminine acknowledgement. See Ryan, A. (1997). John Dewey and the high tide of American liberalism. NY: W.W. Norton. 

End Notes

1. I am referring to a very interesting duo (and others), Prof. of Philosophy Randy Auxier, SIU and Prof. of Philosophy John Shook, University of Buffalo NY, who have decided to pool their huge libraries, each over 15,000 books, into a library and research center in Randy's home in Murphysboro, IL (a 5 min. drive W. of Carbondale, IL where I live). They are putting together a non-profit organization at the same time and already have other retiring philosophy professors donating their life-long book collections to their center. Auxier and Shook believe their project reflects, as a counter-response, to a growing disturbing trend of American higher education institutes in general, which have disregarded the best quality of philosophy from American scholars in history. They are more than a little perturbed at the "State" of funding losses in higher education from the public purse and the overly business attitude of administration in many universities today in N.A. I agree with their critique and I think it is fascinating they are taking their passions into their own hands and not depending on anyone else to secure the best of knowledge and wisdom. One could write an essay about this changing landscape of American higher education in the past few decades where institutions care more about "profit" than securing the wisdom of a culture, in particular through the academy. I think they are marking a trend of alternative learning centers. The place at Randy's will be available to the public not merely scholars. It will have a residential component for scholars as well. I am even putting together a proposal for such a year long residency (I'll talk about that later perhaps). 

2. My all time favorite education book has got to be Krishnamurti, J. (1953/81). Education and the significance of life. NY: Harper & Row.

3. The Dewey materials from the Center are now in the (cold and dark) basement level of Morris Library, SIU. Larry Hickman, Director of the Center for Dewey Studies has been demoted to a small cubicle in that basement and most of his budget for research assistants and graduate assistants sliced. This doesn't speak well of the attitudes of the upper administration in SIU. 

4. The almost repulsive quality I had built up inside myself for over 3 decades in the field of Education, can be summarized (albeit, a bit grossly) to what I read in his work as a functionalist perspective (even if he was somewhat a radical liberal reformer challenging the status quo) and not a conflict perspective (i.e., based in critical theory). This is a much longer argument of differentiation that I spent years in my graduate work sorting out and researching, to come to the conclusion I was a conflict theorist not a functionalist (pragmatist) theorist. It makes a big political difference. For those really keen to know more about this you can check out these terms online and a really good summary of the distinction is my daughter and her collaborator's chapter in a recent book I also have a chapter in, see Fisher, V., and Nicholson, S. E. (2014). Introduction: Developing a critical integral praxis for sex, gender, and sexuality. In S. E. Nicholson and V. Fisher (Eds.), Integral voices on sex, gender, and sexuality: Critical inquiries (pp. 1-12). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 

5. I still am not convinced his work is strong enough to bring about the transformation that I think America needs to go through before it destroys itself and the rest of the world with it. Thus, I am still rightfully critical he was not "radical enough" (you could say)--that is, he never was a good conflict theorist. Now, even that, as I age, is becoming a little more tenuous of a divide in my mind (despite E.N. #4). But that's a longer story, and I'm interested to study Dewey to look at just what kind of conflict theorist he perhaps was and/or he was an integral theorist and I just missed it and frankly, I haven't read enough nearly to even assess this anymore. 

6. I had read a scholar recently writing on Dewey's work and suggesting Dewey preferred to be called some working with the philosophy of "experimentalism" and yet, many have dubbed him working with the philosophy of pragmatism (along with William James, Charles S. Peirce, etc.). Albeit, Dewey is uniquely a pragmatist with a strong social philosophy (activist) bent; and his background in Christianity (which he left the church eventually) and as a social reformer connected with religious life in America (i.e., New England)--all this leads to him being "prophetic" (and I mean that, because of his confrontation of our society with its culture of fear and the need for fearlessness). 

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Thanks Michael for this photoshop image of Medwyn McConachy and I a couple years ago (photo originals by Medwyn) when we had exchanged a good deal of art processes and then began to bring forward some theories that inform our work, and at least, could inform our work in the future. 

A raw unedited 20 minute recorded dialogue on the Gibraltar Point Pier with the accompaniment of Lake Ontario waves in Toronto, Ontario, Canada  during an artist residency. In this recording Medwyn McConachy and Barbara Bickel discuss Matrixial (Ettinger) Differential (Sandolva) Integral (Wilber) theories that then moves into talking about the relationship between the colonizer and oppressed and education.

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If you have browsed the photos I have put up, and go right to the beginning you'll see the book cover of Philosophy of Fearism and a photo of Desh Subba the Nepali writer who wrote the book, as he was photographed at Hong Kong University giving a talk on his book. Desh and I are sort of colleagues, online, and have not yet met or even skyped. We read each others' text and we mirror what each other is thinking and writing about so passionately. 

I won't go into "our" story about beginning a philosophy of fearism on this planet. Some of that story is in Desh's 2014 book Philosophy of Fearism and a few interviews are online, but more to say that the "best" collaboration (collection) of our thoughts on a philosophy of fearism are well underway in a new book we co-wrote (and I am doing the final formatting on). The title is: Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue. Hopefully, it will come out in 3-4 months from now or around X-mas time... we'll see. I mention the 'story' part of our collaboration because it is part of what leads me to confess in this blog my "embarrassing" feelings and thoughts now and then. 

First, what is most embarrassing is my coming to terms (after 26 yrs.) that I am reaching my goal as a (to be) recognized international expert on a philosophy of fear and fearlessness. Yes, my original goal was shaping up to be a founder of a philosophy of fearlessness, because that felt right and was an interesting philosophy and combination of words. But after engaging in inter-textual dialogue, and an integral dialectical (if not trialectical) dance with Mr. Subba, things started to change, and I was not alone, not the Westerner any more leading only--and something happened where in our new co-written book I am joining forces to be the 'other' founder of a philosophy of fearism. I am submitting to (defaulting to) by no force, but by privilege of having met Subba's work and commitment--a philosophy of fearism over a philosophy of fearlessness. Even though, in our new book I explain how this happened and also that I am keeping my own unique stream of thought and philosophy (i.e., fearlessness) under the one roof of fearism. 

It is important that "two became one," as we share in this new co-written book, a dialogue is profoundly influential in one's thinking, and life, and this is surely the case with us, or at least, I'll speak for myself here. I'm a bit surprised, and slightly embarrassed by it because of my close identification (as a teacher) of the philosophy of fearlessness and that's what all my friends, colleagues and students have known me as. It is a bit like changing a name. I know how hard it is, slightly embarrassing, for example when I changed from "Robert" to "Michael" in the late 1990s. 

But the other embarrassing thing is to put myself out there as a founder of a brand new philosophy (and "better" philosophy for understanding fear) on the planet and to then reflect on the problematic of that assertion when I am not a qualified philosopher (not professionally, not academically)--and, I'm even rather poorly educated in "philosophy" and the humanities period. It's embarrassing to say I have never completed a post-secondary philosophy course ever. I took a couple in undergrad and "flunked" or "quit" before it was too late to embarrass myself as how I was a lousy philosopher, by academic standards--at least, that was the case in the late 1970s, but sure, I am quite a different being today. 

Desh also is not a trained philosopher. We are more artists... as our new book will describe. So, I'll leave that confession, and end this blog with a fresh piece of rough writing from my journaling today that's related to the above and adds a really cool thought which I think could be a foundational "descriptor" (in part) of what this new philosophy of fearism (beyond existentialism, or any other "ism" philosophy to date) is at core: 

PHILOSOPHY OF FEARISM- fear is actually the predominant motivator of human behavior, individually and collectively--and, it has overwhelming been disregarded as such in any current philosophy available on the planet. It is this disregard that is 'killing us' fast and slowly. But, in the end, each will have to decide what relationship they want to a philosophy of fearism (should they be so exposed). It is the very existence (emergence today) of a philosophy of fearism that is the better relationship to investigate, beyond the habitual and common practice of evaluating our relationship to the nature and role of fear (for e.g.), or beyond investigating our fear(s) and even fear itself. The latter two forms of inquiry are, according to the philosophy of fearism (Subbaian, and Fisherian), inadequate, if not misdirected in their focus and project. Accounting for one's relationship to a philosophy of fearism ought to take precedent to the former approaches. To do so, will in part, bring more clarity, more freedom from fear, and a liberational praxis that will prevent any toxifying ideology of fearism from taking over a philosophy of fearism.  -RMF

[note: this descriptor is ripe for being cast out onto a Wikipedia entry if anyone is interested]

p.s. thanks to Al and Laura Santos for their house (Calgary, AB) and printer and supplies, and quiet time, for the month of April, 2015 when I wrote the bulk of material for this new book

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I am writing this blog because of an article my life-partner (Barbara Bickel) passed on to me today. It is very interesting because rarely does an educator, never mind an art educator and artist in the (American) profession of Art Education, come out so bluntly in their national newspaper (NAEA News, Apr. 2015) announcing in the opening paragraph: 

"... I will take a moment to reflect on what I value as an artist, educator, and spiritualist as contemplation on fear-based educational paradigms. As I was meditating, clarity about just how much we are victims of a fear-based society [i.e., "culture of fear," by many other names]. (Willis, 2015, p. 15). 

Whoa! Way to go Steve Willis, who is also USSEA Pres., Prof. of Art Education, Missouri State University. I see he is someone new I have not come across in my research over the years in both the field of education (and its radical thinkers), and in my study of fear and culture of fear. He is just a few hrs. drive from Carbondale, IL too so that makes it more interesting to me. I appreciate he isn't afraid to call himself, in professional (and art) circles a "spiritualist" (whatever that exactly might mean to him).

I think many feel what Steve feels (yes, especially school teachers), but few articulate it or even know how to. Too many have accepted it as the 'new normal' for American society. The issue he raises (and then somewhat dismisses) is "fear-based educational paradigms" as I see it-- and indeed Steve's concern is one of many educators, across the fields of study and specializations. I have documented that literature in "Culture of Fear and Education: An Annotated Bibliography, 1990-2011)" which I published some 4 yrs. ago (go to the link and scroll down for a free pdf). I would love educators of all stripes to tune-in to the vast amount of consensus on the Fear Problem in Education. All the years, since 1989, I have more or less been trying to rally educators to address this problem, or even discuss it openly, and I can conclude that it has been a dismal failure, for lots of reasons, many I have written about in other publications. But maybe I am being too negative in focus here and in my research? Isn't that the other (primary) reason Steve wrote his article--he was concerned about his own practices for years of "focusing on the negative" (his words).

Being Positive, Being Negative: Where Should We Focus? 

I too am a "spiritualist" (if one wants to use that word), meaning I give a good deal of my attention on my spiritual development (or what some call integral and/or transpersonal, transcendent or esoteric). I won't try to define those here. My interest was how Steve has put forward an argument (after also consulting with his wife who is a "spiritual leader," as he calls her) something like this in his article: I have worked most all my life to be a good and just person, and school art teacher... but over the years all he was seeing (predominantly anyways) in schools, in kids and their families, in communities, in the administration of Education, among his fellow teachers, etc. were the many "negative aspects." He then says, upon critical and meditative reflection (and from spiritual teachings he's been studying) that he was sort of wasting his time all those years fighting against the negative and trying to make it positive. He wrote, "... I was inadvertly an active participant in a negatively reinforced, no-win scenario"  [i.e., the self-reinforcing energies and conflicts of a fear-based paradigm and fear-based society that breeds on it]. He too, implicitly, was becoming fear-based (= negative focused). All his ways of perceiving, thinking, acting (with good intention) were no longer (apparently) valid, due to his new spiritual insight--an insight that he says comes down to claiming (believing) that it is better to be "heart-centered" or what many call love-based. 

There is a lot more in his short article, which I so appreciate he wrote and is publishing amongst his peers. We need a lot more of this kind of discussion. I touch on a few things and leave much unsaid. On the other hand, I am not as celebratory as he seems to be now with his heart-centered focus. This is a long long philosophical/theological critique I have made for decades of people (and educators, and spiritualists) who fall prey to a rather dubious worldview themselves in the 'name' of love-heart centeredness-- that IF they focus on the negative, more negative will be created (and they will attract and feel more negative). I well know that esoteric philosophy, and I also well know it has validity problems, in the sense of the requirement that many spiritual teachings share that we require not one or the other (not positive vs. negative)--see for example, the best of polarity therapy and its philosophy (also Taoism, etc.). There is a common tendency, I have observed, for people to "swing" from one extreme (e.g., overly negative focused) to another extreme (e.g., overly positive focused)--now, if you apply that to where one ought to focus their attention to be good critical thinkers and just citizens today-- this complicates things to where Steve's argument tends to come off as if he is telling us not to focus on fear (i.e., the negative) and only (or more so) on love. What is better? What teachings are worthy in helping us with this ancient dilemma?

No easy answer to that question. I only know, I am always cautious when someone has a 'turn around' euphoric experience (as Steve clearly describes in his article--albeit, he admits it was hard work turning negative focus into positive focus) and wants to promote it immediately to the rest of the world, with arguments that are dubious when examined closely. I have been so intent on improving the distinctions (with data, with research) between "love-based" and "fear-based" and how they are so typically located by people and teachers into fear vs. love, or some such derivative (i.e., a belief system). I have published an extensive paper on this a few years back entitled: Love and Fear (Yellow Paper DIFS-6). As well, another paper available in which I go after the criticality required to even label something "fear-based" (as Steve does)--not so easy of a task when you really get down to it. These are reasons for me for being cautious to grand claims, that Steve and many others who think like he does around fear (negative) vs. love (positive)... and conflate that with fear (head) and love (heart), etc. See my critical paper entitled: "The Problem of Defining the Concept 'Fear-based'" (perhaps, I'm too negative for focusing so much research on "fear"?... ha ha). 

What I most appreciate in Steve's honesty, even more than I am enthused of his 'turn around' perspective (no doubt it is helpful to him and others to some degree), is calling truth the truth, reality the reality (as best we can conceive) in a critical discourse of naming the Fear Problem in education (and the rest of the society, especially in the West and in America). If we stop focusing equal attention on fear (as say with love), then we are going to be in an even more dangerous situation than we are now with the fear-based paradigm and its deep infiltration not into only our consciousness (or hearts) but in the very structures of societies, like architectures, curriculum designs, and I could go on and on. Having a change of heart, and finding more balance from looking too much at the negative and fighting against it is one thing (a good thing), but more or less rejecting the hard work of looking into 'Hell' at the same time as 'Heaven'--that's, the path of fearlessness in a nutshell (as are most of the non-dual teachings from many traditions). 

I think Steve, and others like him, have (dare I say) struck a chord on the 'right track' to liberation but they tend to "swing" in extremes... oh, my god, that is a chronic problem in schools, education, and near random styles/values shifting from this to that (e.g., fav ice cream flavor of the week)-- Steve must know that. So, I encourage him to really stop reinforcing the fear-based paradigm completely (and actually, start by not calling it "negative" and setting up a binary with "positive")... and yes, I support Steve's great initiative with himself and his colleagues to: 

"Imagine the freshness and excitement of an artist [educator] creating without fear and anxiety...". 

I am very interested in better recognizing fear ('fear') when we don't... and my research says, we most often don't recognize it. I look forward and celebrate artists of the future, becoming educators, and following compassion and wisdom, along with good critical analysis of body-head-heart-soul-spirit ... call it holistic-integral education, or whatever. 

There is so much great teaching, from around the world, on moving from fear to fearlessness... I wrote a book on it (smile).

Okay, I look forward to more dialogue on this, and if I can help, let me know. Yes, may we find that precarity of 'balance' that may or may not actually exist in the Real World!

References Cited

Willis, S. (2015). United States Society for Education Through Art (USSEA). National Art Education Association News, Apr. 25, 15.

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If I was to do a fearanalysis on how societies categorize "terror" via its association with terrorism and terrorists, i would say it usually makes sense only on the surface. Once you penetrate through the political discourses (and their psychological defense mechanisms), you come to see a lot of not making much sense in how so-called "terrorists" are labeled and how so-called "terrorism" is used and manipulated by all sorts of people (especially the elite power players, like military, and political leaders and their corporatist friends). Yet, we all are susceptible to playing with these terms, using them, thinking with them--often without a lot of nuance or critically.

I won't go into my long critique of the use of this term. I have been writing a good deal about that since 1989, more or less, and especially during my dissertation years--and 9/11 really showed me the way the discourse on terrorism gets used and mis-used so quickly in the same breath. Now, just in my last few days in Canada, I am aware of heading back to the USA and the political battles brewing before the 2016 Presidential run-off. I see so much of the Harper conservative leadership regime really getting into this "terrorism" thing as the US elites and culture do, using ISIS and any other movement or actions appropriately connected or not, to get people scared enough so that military western invasions are acceptable nearly anywhere anytime. It's all part of the ongoing construction of the culture of fear phenomenon that I have blogged about on this site before (see for e.g., May 15, June 18, 2015).

My partner (Barbara) just brought the latest issue of Common Ground magazine to share with me, and I open to an article (Letter) entitled: "Understanding Harper's Actions Takes Some Mental Acrobatics" (yes, the west coasters in Canada really are out to get Harper thrown out of office as soon as possible... smile). The author of the article (and it could be so many other authors I have read for decades) really ends up following the oppressive (mis-guided) conformist pattern of critiquing most "terrorists" (who ever may identify and label them) as "disillusioned psycho cases on the margin of society" (p. 13), that is, when they are gunman, mass murderers, and not so clearly identified with a so-called political "terrorist organization"--and yet, that all becomes a murky distinction. The author was referring to those individuals who have attacked Canada's parliament buildings in recent years. Okay, now what does that mean(?)-- "psycho case" . And is that not a cutting hurtful label to give someone who chooses (more or less) to not participate and support the mainstream of society? And, are not the politically motivated so-called terrorists (e.g. ISIS) also folks who have chosen (more or less) to not participate and support the mainstream of society that they live in and chose not to support Western militarization and global capitalization of their countries? They are all resistors. Now, people can call them terrorists, and can call them "psycho cases" and compare the two-- but what attitude is making the judgment. It is one based on fear and it is a nasty way to make all these people 'Other' (reproducing "fear of Other" as postmodern and postcolonial critics have argued is a one-way ticket to hatred and violence in some form).

It astounds me, how unable (unwilling) and fear-full the smartest people are (our leaders?), when it comes to a sophisticated understanding and representation of people who don't fit in the margins. When are we going to listen to them (enough, a lot, a little) so that we don't just write them off as "terrorists" or "psycho cases" and actually work with the larger systems reality that they are us, in some way, in some larger more systematic ecology of consciousness and life--and, equally take responsibility that 'We' have created them for the exact reason to confront 'Us' to see what we are creating as a system. Any good family or organizational therapist knows this problem of scape-goating, and so do social critics who see it as another way to distance ourselves from the pathologies of the mainstream production system itself. Yes, I'd really like to do a fearanalysis of how we don't make sense making sense... you gotta laugh, you gotta cry.... we are so far away from the Intelligence we need yet as a society to really change, transform and heal a legacy of "fear of the Othering" that is chronic.

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Whether you're a professional, semi-pro, or natural caregiver and helper (consultant, coach, friend, lover, etc.), there are some interesting things to be aware of if you want to develop a mature ("fearless") practice. This is a complex topic when it comes to the relationship of fear and fearlessness to ethics, and a book or two needs to be written some day on that. However, in the mean time, of practical matters, I did find a starting thread of wisdom from a pretty interesting practitioner/writer by the name of Cedar Barstow, in a very readable book Right Use of Power: The Heart of Ethics (A Resource for the Helping Professional) (2008, Many Realms Publishing, Boulder, CO). I was particularly pleased in finding this book on a shelf at a house I am currently staying in Courtenay, BC, where the author Barstow uses Ken Wilber's (integral theory) substantially for her model of ethical development. Very cool.

I picked one page from the book to share here (in extract adaptations) around the issue of "counter-transference" issues in helping relationships. The theory and research done on how clients react to helpers and how helpers then react to client's reactions is one of an important piece of understanding to gain and mastery to utilize effectively. I'll not elaborate on all that here unless you ask (also feel free to elaborate for all of us on the FMning if you wish in your own Comments). To say the least, there is an enormous interchange of visible and invisible affect between people in helping relationships and most of us in these has a lot to learn about that.

The issue of counter-transference (as driver and dynamic of perceptions, thoughts, and actions), I will add, is a topic I have researched for a long time going back to my dissertation years when I gave a paper at a conference on the topic and how researchers (of all kinds) also need to be aware of their counter-transference with certain topics under the research lens (of course, I was taking the example of researching "fear itself" as a subject). Again, I won't go into that here. 

So, Barstow (2008, p. 131; citing J. M. Watkin's work) interestingly outlines 6 major issues/problems/challenges in counter-transference processes, which she calls "patterns" (and I easily could call them all technically 'fear' patterns; Counselor's Fears, is another way of saying it simplistically) [bold added for emphasis other than the beginning of the sentences]: 

"(1) Being overprotective of client. A client can trigger the counselor's fears. The counselor steers the client away from areas that trigger the counselor's painful material [unhealed painful memories = 'fear' patterns]... [I used to call this the core of all co-dependency patterns that are unhealthy in relationships, that is, the agreed obvious or the yet discovered agreement made between two people (or more) that goes something like this: "I promise not to bring up your fears if you don't bring up mine." ]

(2) Treating clients in benign ways. The counselor has fears of the client's anger. To guard against this anger, the counselor creates superficiality ... [reduces to] friendly conversation"... [this is more or less, "fear of destructivity" - pain, loss, deconstruction, etc.]

(3) Rejection of clients. The counselor, seeing the client as needy and dependent, moves away, remains cools and aloof, and does notlet the client get too close" [this is more or less "fear of intimacy" as problem for the counselor; that is, not trusting themselves in the depths of the world of intimacy with anyone]

(4) Need for reinforcement and approval. The counselor needs to be reassured of their effectiveness. If the client is not getting better, the counselor has fears and self doubts." [this is more or less "fear of failure"]

(5) Seeing self in the client. The counselor [over-]identifies with the client to the point of losing objectivity. They may see in the client traits that the counselor dislikes in themself. A 'difficult' client [is labeled]..." [and often rejected or abandoned by the counselor, more or less subtlely] [this is more or less "fear of one's shadow" and/or another's shadow]

(6) Development of sexual or romantic feelings. The counselor can exploit the vulnerable position of the client, consciously or unconsciously." [this is more or less "fear of losing control" and becoming subordinated to the power of the client]


For as useful as this awareness is, there is still a much larger context we need to bring into an integrally aware caregiving/helping practice-- it is not just about "me" and "them" (or "you" or "we") it is also about the "world" (all the contexts, systems, of which I and we operate) (especially, if one is a "cultural therapist" as I claim for myself)-- that's what Wilber calls the "It" of the triad with "I" and "We" perspectives. Okay, may this awareness bring forward more dialogue on the role of fear (and of course, dialectically, fearlessness) in helping practices. This is core foundational work in my experience, and those that avoid it (the above) are more or less caught in "fear of ethics" -- and that's a higher level problem isn't it?

I did note in scanning this entire book by Barstow that she uses "fear" sparingly throughout and does not use "fearlessness" at all. I always thought that any integral theory and developmental map/design of ethical development has to be based on fearlessness (i.e., more or less non-fear-based)--and likewise any helping/caring that is healthy in the long run. Of course, the practical world is one filled with people "helping" and "caring" and "loving" by means that are less than fearlessness. That is a serious problem to overcome, without condemning anyone for 'where they are at', in my view. 

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Some two and 1/2 yrs ago I did some writing and took some political actions re: the Fearlessness Movement, my critique of fear management/education and my critique of the culture of fear in America... and especially critique of the way the mass murders in USA are regularly made meaning as a "gun problem" (pro or con)... the nice simple binary. I have selected some of that writing (and a link to an article) I wrote here: (on Dec. 26, 2012, post-Sandy Hook tragedy)... 

Now we have the 21 yr. old rebel at Charleston, S.C. killing 9 black people who were praying in their Methodist church.... it is not a gun problem, is what I wrote to the Pres. and VP of the USA in 2012... it is a Fear Problem we have... and the guns only "feed" to the fear... and create more... what curriculum is adequate to the task of the 21st century and these ongoing mass murders (or acts of 'terrorism')... etc.? And with the help of a colleague I was inspired to write a letter and send a copy of my book to the Pres. and VP at the time (neither replied)... the ongoing, silence, and denial-- 'fear' itself (i.e., fearism-t) is well in place with even our best leaders who are too afraid to really encounter the issue of source--- fear itself, by any other name.... It will repeat... these tragedies... until we find a better way to make meaning of them and thus be able to intelligently, from a place of true fearlessness design a different society.... 

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Some weeks ago I posted a blog on Canadian politics and the growing culture of fear (i.e., the way of American Fear)... and it looks like activist groups (including Anonymous, the powerful hacker activists) have been 'assaulting' back ... challenging the potential passing of C51 and its opening the way to more "secret police" in Canada and a whole lot of other so-called anti-terrorism moves... here's a petition of near 200,000 that is circulating entitled "Reject Fear"

At the same time I can support such a fearlessness movement like "Reject Fear" and its predecessors in recent American politics from 2000 onward... I have also a great desire that some day we'll actually demand from our leaders a better curriculum on fear and its management-- a must course for all politicians... ha ha ha!!!

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I recently came across an abstract from a fellow presenting at the 2014 Jean Gebser conference. I was intrigued with its focus on the role of fear in cultural evolution (and consciousness itself). Although the abstract only gives a cursory view of the presumably Gebserian perspective presented on fear, it lays out some strong claims that I think we all ought to examine critically. Gebser, in short, is highly regarded as an important philosopher-theorist by many integral thinkers of today, especially Ken Wilber has honored and cited his work. So, here is the abstract which may bring up dialogue among us, notably, there is no discussion of fearlessness with fear in a dialectical sense. 

Excerpted from


Rick Muller, PhD (2014)

Fear initiates human action. Humans at their core attempt to avoid fear by creating a world of comfort, safety and familiarity. That is why responses to fear, the unexpected and the unknown, are so overwhelming. Research suggests the residual effect of fear lasts longer than that of pleasure among humans. Is this a fundamental biologically encoded reaction? If so it initiates modern humans to move experiences and objects from the mental category of the unknown/feared into the mental category of the known. Doing so creates familiarity, safety, protection and the illusion of control. The historical artifacts of this process include rituals, taboos, social and familial structures, belief, dogmas, religion, law and science. All are reactions; all are protections from the ever-present inherent sense of fear, the unknown, the invisible and the ineffable.

To understand modernity or what [Jean] Gebser refers to as the mental rational requires one to have a greater sense of how the archaic/magic contributes to humanity’s response to fear. This paper suggests that fear is an initiating factor and an underlying foundation for human choice; one that affects the structuring of community, society, religion, values and ethics. One modern effort to covertly undermine the residual certainty of Gebser’s mental rational, of the Enlightenment, of Romanticism, of the Industrial and Scientific revolutions comes from within the mental rational itself. The uncanny, while predominantly mental and psychological in nature, continues to bore out of the core of modernity creating a space for the archaic, magic and mythic attributes to flourish within a fading western mental rational construction of the human world.

The ongoing disintegration of certainty frees the inherent fears from their protective structures to irrupt into individual human consciousness and everyday life. Fear, the unknown, the fear of the unknown and in modernity the fear of the perceived known continues to rattle the foundations of belief, creation, personal and collective behavior. Western anxiety is born of the social and cultural byproducts that were meant to protect humanity from fear. But do these protections and structures actually protect; if so, from what? What occurs when the protective membrane disintegrates, dissipates, becomes transparent? Death?

Rick Muller, Ph.D., is affiliate professor at Regis University’s (Denver, CO) Rueckert-Hartman College of Health Professions where he teaches accounting, finance and economics for the master’s degree in nursing program. His most recent publications include using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and Ignatian Pedagogy Model for Improved Learning in Jesuit Higher Education, May 2014]; Hitting the Financial Knowledge Target in Nursing Management, October 2013 and he provided editorial assistance for an article about the current issues confronting Venezuela (April 2014) in Winds and Waves, the magazine for the Institute of Cultural Affairs International.


"Fear initiates human action. Humans at their core attempt to avoid fear by creating a world of comfort, safety and familiarity."

The prior blog I posted echoes these kind of claims, as the above quote, (typical of Desh Subba's philosophy of fearism; see my prior blogs), and sets the stage for human culture's use/management of "fear" to continue to motivate us--but in what way does it motivate us? When is it healthy? When is it pathological? How would we know the difference? The latter, is the more important question.

I am not saying fear does not motivate us. I have been writing about the down-side to this, particularly because we tend to (primarily) focus on fear and not fearlessness in history, development and cultural evolutions. If "fear is an initiating factor" and foundation for human choice, as Muller suggests (and Gebser must likely imply), we still have the problem unaddressed in this abstract as to what are we talking about when we use "fear" and is it as complete and integral enough of an understanding (and does it have a deconstruction-reconstruction critique built-in) to be useful to the 21st century and where cultural evolution seems to be going (or where it is perhaps enmeshed in a pathology that will take us all out)... just a few quick thoughts... Someone really needs to study Gebser's work and see what he directly has said about the role of fear and how that supports or doesn't a Subbaian philosophy of fearism. 


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Based on the prior discussion with Durwin, and his daughter's attraction to "fearless" motivational discourses, images, ideas (1)... there's such a deep channel of contemporary popular culture that is currently working really hard to overcome fear, and use fear as a motivation to excel (express absolute uniqueness of self), for males and females... but, if you want to get a feel for this discourse (a very problematic one), you can check out this video on Youtube, which is one of many hundreds no doubt, as I have been studying these hyper-individualized (often hyper-masculinized) motivational discourses (fear management/education) in W. societies for several decades-- implicit in the imagery and ideology promoted as "motivation" has to be questioned as it promotes "fearless" in such a loose (partial) way... with virtually no sensibility to cultural, historical and social contexts or (i.e., relational) dimensions-- this is in my view the pathology of the reductionistic view of "self" and "success" (2)-- and where this W. society is heading, and has been long on such a trajectory that leads to the adrenalin-over-dose addiction pattern (i.e., the 'fear' pattern itself) of bravado that thinks it is conquering fear... (by will power)...  

End Notes

1. The other underpinning is an "anti-victimization" narrative and ideology below this-- all part of a very conservative politics that I find is quite oppressive to those who don't all start on the same platform to achieve "success"-- and you'll, also hear the loud volume of the booming "authoritarian" voice in this telling you what you should do-- it is quite the irony to the freedom to "be oneself" promoted. Contradictions abide, and thus, we need a critical study of these--adolescents are particularly susceptible to this stuff (but not all). 

2. Upper quadrants of Wilber's integral map-- often seen as quadrantism (a pathological epistemological orientation); I often call this the psycho-spiritual dimension which "thinks" it can overcome everything and "win" (i.e., dominate, or at least, try to win over all other quadrants)--you can see this hyper-adrenalized masculinity in this video is so much a part of sports and fitness (even health) discourses today which spreads over all our lives as "being the best you can be" etc. --it even spreads into "spiritual" development of which you'll see small fragments in this seductive video.

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My friend and colleague in Hong Kong (from Nepal) has published his newest book (a novel) on his philosophy of fearism (this topic is one I have co-written with Subba, a book on as well... hopefully to come out in the fall)... check it out:

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Fearless motivation

Have been talking with my children about the cultivation of fearlessness, and so my 12 year old daughter shared this one with me this a.m.:

Will be easy to critique from a postmodern perspective, but hopefully can be appreciated as relevant for the adolescent level!


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And once inside, this photo captures much of what I found evocative during my stay so far in this space... The art piece (3 by 4 ft) of a black bear and human hand with a blue berry... on knee level.... This was the image that I found difficult to engage for the first while but then by day five I was able to get into it... I like the reflections on the glass cover over this print (entitled: "Blueberry", Oct. 1981, 8/10 print, artist illegible but begins with a 'W')....

Yes, this large print has one piece of color, a small blueberry in blue color in the human hand.... now, just take time if you will to imagine and interpret what this image might be communicating. I found it had so many many layers it was overwhelming.... but as usual, I just begin to work with it using spontaneous reflective writing and then began to add in the quotes I had recorded from many of Pete's books taken at (near) random from his shelves.... 

The following is the poetic inquiry (one of a series, I suspect) where I take the "random" quotes on fear and fearlessness that I found in Pete's book collection and then interspersed them with my own reflections on the "Blueberry" art piece in the living room. I am quite happy with the result in this first of what I'm calling BLACK N' BLUE MAN-I-PULATION. You can see what you get out of this poetic collage.... let me know if you like. I may write more in depth about this later. 

Black n’ Blue[1] Man-i-Pulation-1


They streamed fearless

from the forest[2] chanting

it is bravado

to believe that we are now immune to these killers[3]


desireless—virtually unmoved the beast of fears

shadows over the in-sighting of its seller


black-blue eco-stabilitation

a million, no a billion







of the



As we continued up the long aisle

the choir began

to sing

‘Be Not Afraid’[4] as artist-curator


tandem taught




at the level

of our



growth and resilience

an e-con-amie


have you ever been afraid of growing up?[5]


this in itself was enough

autoethnographically speaking,




to evoke in us


a deep


of pity and fear[6]


spherical terror-laden

stained of natural

blue ink


on the eyebrow


of the white-saited sheets….





delicate evolved




blue pearl

of want

a man-i-pulation


desireless instinct

population-- one













--this fear about inequality





much fear is



animals also







many island species have calmly



their doom







-R. Michael Fisher

June 5, 2015


[1] Inspired by the home library, the art piece (“Blueberry” by artist ‘W’(?), Oct. 1981, print 8 out of 10) in apartment 709 of Pete Sarsfield, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

[2] Excerpt (p. 150), from Whitt, L. (2010). Tecumseh’s return: the quakes of 1811-12. Prairie Fire, 31(3), 149-50.

[3] Excerpt (p. xii), from Garrett, L. (2000). Betrayal of trust: The collapse of global public health. NY: Hyperion.

[4] Excerpt (p. 19), from Corkum, T. (2010). Notes toward a film about my childhood. Prairie Fire, 31(2), 17-27.

[5] Ibid., p. 19.

[6] Excerpt (p. 162), from Mitchell, J. H. (1990). Living at the end of time. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

[7] Excerpt (p. 259), from Gould, S. J. (2003). The hedgehog, the fox, and the magister’s box: Mending the gap between science and the humanities. NY: Harmony Books.

[8] Excerpts (pp. 53, 50), from Masson, J. M., and McCarthy, S. (1995). When elephants weep: The emotional lives of animals. NY: Delacorte Press.

[9] Excerpt (p. 61), from Livingston, J. A. (1994). Rogue primate: An exploration of human domestication. Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books.

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As Barbara and I have been on this sabbatical for five months in Canada, it has been our focus to embody the idea of 'artist-in-residence' wherever we go. Currently, we are in Winnipeg, MN, Canada for a few more days. We've stayed at Pete Sarsfield's apartment just off the Assiniboine River and near downtown. It is an exquisite location for us on many levels. Living (house sitting) in another person's dwelling, especially when you have never met them, and they are on holidays, is interesting. I have taken a rather anthropological (ethno- and autoethnographic) view to this ecology of experiencing, especially as Pete's apartment is so invested with his values, philosophy, care and aesthetic sensibility, as well as his politics. But this blog is not about Pete, rather it is all about the art I have engaged in while in his apartment and this area at this time in history. 

The most provocative images, in my view as artist and a/r/tographer come from experiencing the environment on the way into his apartment and then the art and books he has that line his walls and floors. Yes, I said floors. He has mounted art pieces on the floor in the living room, so, without more text at this time as I bring in my interest in fear and fearlessness into this art project at apt. 709, let me show the photos I've taken to accompany this blog and give you a more full aesthetic sense of the ecology of experiencing I have been involved in for the past 5 days here....

First, the hallway down to apt. #709, and we can see the touches that Pete has added to the architecture of a rather bland 1950-60s type apartment complex:


Next, we get a little closer to see the additions he has made to the hallway of which no other apt. has such a deliberate signature as this one...

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If you don't already know, there are long ancient traditions (e.g., Buddhism) that highly regard "fearlessness" (or what are called "fearlessnesses" in Buddhism). These (primarily E.) traditions, secular and religious, teach that fearlessness is the virtue of all other virtues. Meaning, that if one doesn't get the base foundation of fearlessness down well, integrated, corrected, growing--then, the other virtues will collapse on this 'crack' in the foundation. I won't cite all the literature for this, but I have done so in my book The World's Fearlessness Teachings

I wish in this blog to briefly discuss a couple of things about fearlessness and its direct (and indirect) relationship to Buddhism (if such a generalization about "Buddhism" is feasible anymore in this postmodern world): (a) there are problems in teaching Buddhism to W. audiences in postmodern universities and higher education generally, (b) the Buddhist ancient concept of the ideal Buddha is founded on qualities of the "four fearlessnesses." I'll insinuate some analogies here with teaching Buddhism and teaching fearlessness, as this latter theme has been on my mind of late (see the prior blogposting as well). 

First, l wish to talk about a particular problem of teaching Buddhism in the W. in the modern and postmodern world/curriculum of liberal education. The analogy can be made that teaching fearlessness is virtually identical and so you can take the quote I am using here on this problem and substitute "fearlessness" for "Buddhism"--at least, I think such a juxtaposition creates interesting tension and spaces for dialogue that needs to be had. It helps problematizing any "ideal" curriculum on fear and fearlessness, of which I am so passionate about. 

I take the lead on this first, and pedagogically-oriented, problem from Hori (2002), where he argues that for many years Frank Reynolds,a respected scholar and practitioner of Buddhism in the W., has been writing critically about teaching Buddhism in the modern and postmodern university, as well as in wider contexts, especially in relation to the crisis in liberal education in general (1). Hori (paraphrasing Reynolds) speaks of the 4 Problems of Pedagogy in this regard: 

"He [Reynolds] cautions us against transmitting an overly simplistic picture of what Buddhism 'really is,' against depicting the history of Buddhism as either a one-directional degeneration from its originally pure form or a one-directional unfolding of its true essence into its modern form, against over romanticizing Buddhism in a way that caters to disaffected [disenchanted] Western intellectuals, and against emphasizing its 'other worldly' aspects while ignoring the social, political and economic forms in which Buddhism has actually appeared." (p. 170)

[again, try substituting "fearlessness" for "Buddhism" in this quote]

Second, I wish to bring "fearlessness" into the Buddhist context in one particular way (of many other ways), that is, re: the teaching on the "four fearlessnesses" of the Buddha. These are part n' parcel of the ideal qualities/attributes of the Buddha and thus, the goal of the initiate in Buddhism and one would suppose the goal of any curriculum of Buddhism at its best. Few people, even Buddhists I've met, seem to know about this teaching and/or they merely don't talk about it--and, they have not made the connection with my work on this over the decades--all of which I find extremely strange. Okay, to present the basic of this teaching I'll use one Buddhist scholar (Gold, 2007), among others, who articulates (in English transl.) the "four fearlessnesses" of the Buddha (ideal) (2): 

"Sa-pan begins the Gateways by praising the guru and Manjurri for possessing two lists of qualities shared in the essence of all Buddhas, the Four Specific Knowledges and the Four Fearlessnesses.... [Sa-Pan wrote:] own attainment of confidence in the four specific knowledges and [their use] for others [of] the four fearlessnesses to roar like a lion in the midst of the assembly [3].... the four fearlessnesses--realization, abandonment [teaching] the path to Buddhahood, and teaching its obstacles.... through this method, in composing texts himself, explaining them to others, and clarifying wrong views, he fears nothing.... the perfect Buddhas fearlessly engage.... The Buddhas are, thus, the paradigmatic scholars." (pp. 17-18)

To further implicate this ideal of the "paradigmatic scholars" (i.e., those on the path of fearlessness in the matured and advanced levels), and in the teaching of fearlessness and Buddhism, I draw on Paltseg (1992), another Buddhist scholar: 

"The four fearlessnesses of those who have gone beyond.... A. the fearlessness in connection with becoming enlightened through the understanding of all phenomena.... B. the fearlessness in connection with the wisdom that eliminates all contamination [4].... C. the fearlessness in connection with teaching others how to avoid hindrances.... D. the fearlessness in connection with the accomplishments of the state of suchness, which is the path of renunciation in order to achieve all excellences.... The four fearlessnesses are the aspects of the fearlessness that a Buddha has in terms of fulfilling his [sic] own excellent purposes as well as the excellent purpose of others." (p. 72)

A major point in Paltseg's description is that it is not so much a "fact" whether the perfect Buddha can accomplish any of the four fearlessnesses per se as described in the ideal but rather that the perfect Buddha "has no fear of these doubts" that are part of the path of fearlessness in regard to the four fearlessnessnes. I find that a refreshing and very intelligent notion of process, becoming, and not to get fixed on the 'end' but the way being most important--the methodology, the praxis--that is, "has no fear of these doubts" that arise inside and outside amongst those who argue about the four fearlessnesses and whether they are attainable and logical, etc. And all of these teachings, says Paltseg, lead fearlessness along the "correct path, which is the antidote [to fear = suffering]." (p. 74)

I won't go into more elaboration here, other than to leave these ideas and teachings up on the platform for further inquiry, especially under the agenda of a 21st century curriculum (integral, 2nd-tier, etc.) on fear and fearlessness. 

End Notes

1. Hori, like Reynolds, make the point that the postmodern university/culture cannot be ignored in teaching Buddhism; they also assert that many ideals of humanistic liberal education and philosophy are greatly under attack, much of it rightly so, by postmodern, postcolonial, poststructuralism, and other movements and philosophies. Liberal education they argue has largely disintegrated--and, is looking for reconfiguration or is looking at extinction. 

2. This teaching is from Sa-Pan and Gateways (text), neither of which I am personally familiar. 

3. "Assembly" refers to one or both of followers and opponents to the speaker/teacher (e.g., Buddha).

4. Although this is not clear in Paltseg's text per se in my brief scanning, it is to my mind referring to contamination as anything that is fear-based (i.e., could be called pathology = source of suffering).


Gold, J. C. (2007). The dharma's gatekeepers: Sakya Pandita on Buddhist scholarship. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Hori, V. S. (2002). Liberal education and the teaching of Buddhism. In V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes & J. M. Shields (Eds.), Teaching Buddhism in the west (pp. 170-93). NY: Routledge. 

Paltseg, L. K. (1992). A manual of key Buddhist terms: Categorization of Buddhist terminology with commentary. [Trans by T.K. Rikey & A. Ruskin). New Delhi, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharamsala.

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