Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fear, Hesitation and Doubt

"It's not that they're getting dumber, it's simply that you're becoming more aware of it", said Jonathan as he reached for a slice of Izu Special Roll. "You're just beginning to notice it."

"I'm not sure about that", I responded. "I think I've always been aware of how slowly and poorly some people think. However, I must admit, I've gotten much less tolerant of it."

"That's for sure!", chimed Iris, smiling, "especially when you've got a bunch of deadlines."

"Thank you for support, sweetheart", I quipped, "but my being intolerant doesn't have to do with increased awareness. In fact, intolerance would probably be indicative of a decrease in my awareness. No, I'm sure that people are just getting dumber."

"I think most of them are just fearful", said Jonathan. "He's never gonna jump in with both feet. You'll never get him off the ledge. He's talked about this stuff for years, about setting out on his own, about doing something new. And then he always chickens out, running back to any job he can find."

"Maybe that's it.", I thought, "Fear does have a way of numbing the mind rendering it incapable of clear thought."

And then aloud, "Perhaps there's perhaps a correlation between fear and stupidity, one that is directly proportional? The more fearful you are, the more stupid you become."

"It doesn't have anything to to do with lead poisoning or PCBs in drinking water, although these environmental factors may influence brain development in the beginning; in the end, each of us becomes less intelligent (less capable of productive and efficient thinking) as we become more fearful."

"And the reason people seem to get dumber as they grow older is that they shift modes from acquisition to preservation. They start hanging on to what they've got versus pursuing all that they don't. Preserving acquired knowledge trumps pursuit of the unknown. Maintaining existing relationships (no matter how screwed up they are) trumps engaging new people who may not like or understand you. Keeping your job (no matter how much you dislike it) trumps setting out on your own."

"You get older and you cling. Clinging is just one manifestation of fear."

Jonathan nodded, saying, "Yeah, like Cougar in Top Gun losing his edge because he was 'hanging on too tight.'"

"Well, at least the anecdotal data supports your theory. Most everyone our age seems to have arrived at the clinging stage and they do seem to be getting dumber. The corollary, being fearless makes you smarter, also seems to be supported anecdotally. If you think about all the people who do seem capable of thought, they're the ones who are always trying new stuff and constantly reinventing themselves."

"Yeah, that's it!", I responded, "If we think about intelligence as a capability rather than an attribute, then we could consider fear to be something that incapacitates us intellectually; when you get scared, you bind and chain your capacity for clear and structured thinking. When you eliminate the fear, it's like removing the straight jacket and hand-cuffs and voila, you can think again."

"As your daily MO slowly shifts from pursuit of the new to preservation of the old, you become more fearful. As you become more fearful, you incapacitate your intelligence. So, from a rudiments perspective, if you want to become smarter, simply let go of something old and pursue something new."

Happy Tuesday Morning,

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