Monday, 18 October 2010

Fear does not exist


Someone spoke to us today about fear. It shocked us; frankly, we did not expect that sort of comment. It was not the moment to talk about that, it was not the conversation to engage to that topic, but I made us think about it.

We have a theory about the subject though. We were surprised today to know that someone had fear, because we do not believe in fear. We actually think fear does not exist.

For us, what people call fear is just the psychological reaction to lacking information about whatever thing generates that so-called fear precisely.

If we take a look to History, we realize the urge people have for knowledge, for knowing what might be going on in a given moment, for what might come in the future, for the cause of a given effect, for the future effect of a given cause.

And when people did not know why something happened, when they did not know the cause of certain effect, they reacted typically following two patterns.

Either they invented an explanation for it, which would stay valid until someone came up with a better theory or they allowed an uncomfortable feeling that hey happened to call fear to justify their ignorance.

The first approach is actually the basis of old mythology… and scientific progress afterwards. The need for knowledge made people invent gods and myths that moved waters, caused rain, or even separated day and night. And those who remained ignorant were subject to manipulation of the myth-creators. When people do not understand something, they tend to worship it… (Incidentally we must say that this probably is why so many politicians love statistics and supposedly scientifically-based studies… or why so many top managers here and there adore Excel worksheets and PowerPoint presentations…)

The second reaction is very similar to the one that children have at night, when everything is dark… When obscurity surrounds you, you are not able to see, and not seeing is equivalent to not knowing. Not knowing is precisely the origin of that feeling called fear. And this is why the most common action from parents that have children afraid of dark is simply switching a light on. (Incidentally we should mention that terror movies should not be sponsored by electricity companies in the hope that they will charge consumers more in their regular bills.)

If someone tells you about being afraid, what that person is really telling you, even without knowing himself or herself, is that he or she misses information or knowledge about whatever it is that frightens he or she.

That person is telling you basically that regarding that matter, he or she is in darkness, and that he or she needs help. The mere fact that he or she admits fear is a positive request for help, for if he or she did not want that help, fear would not have been confessed.

When someone tells about his or her fears, turn a light on for him or her… maybe that person is so much into darkness that does not even realize that there is a switch somewhere to be turned on.

We are in the age of information; somewhat ironic that we talk about ignorance, isn’t it? Still, enlightening darkness is as important as ever… Turn the switch on: It might be lighting a bulb, or it could be starting your PC so you can send an email.

Do that for the person that needs to know, and you will prove trust. And trust is one of the pillars of a much stronger and important psychological reaction, let’s put it this way. 

Three thoughts, one decision


When Max Hard’s latest scandal blew up in his face last summer and his company fired him, the third thing that probably came to his mind was something like “So what now?”

(The first one probably was “Oh, shit!”, and the second was “What am I going to tell the wife?”). We admit we might be wrong with the first one; we were thinking of something like “Oh my God”, but for a guy with an ego the size of Texas we would have needed to write “Oh Myself”, and this doesn’t really look well in writing. If we are mistaken with the second, then we guess he guy would not deserve a second of our time as his wife indeed, being as prudent and discreet as she is, deserves all our recognition.

In ancient Greece, when in doubt, a man of wealth and power would possibly do the only possible thing to find out anything: He’d go to visit an oracle, and put the question up.

As a side note in case the reader does not remember from school, the most famous oracle in Greece was the one at Delphi, where a priestess called the Pythia would ritually “listen to the gods” and then transmit their wishes to the visitor. In a totally unrelated transaction, the more gold and treasures the visitor had offered the gods, naturally, the more favourable the answer. From Pythia we derive the word Pythoness, a person who is supposed to be able to foresee and predict the future.

Back to Max, as his former company’s board would probably not have accepted at that time any expense report for a trip to Greece, especially if it included offerings to any Pythia, the guy pulled his recently awarded Palm smartphone, and set an appointment with a much closer and more affordable oracle.

After the customary exchange of greetings upon his arrival, he and the Pythoness went to business.

The priestess had to honor her reputation: “So then let me guess what has brought you here…”, and, Max, a guy whose own reputation as well had to be cared for, proved he had documented himself thoroughly, and made sure the Pythoness had a clear view of the treasures and valuables he could be offering the gods.

The Pythonese was indeed pleased. Very pleased.

Max was ready to wait as long as it took to get an answer. After all, at that moment he had nothing to lose.

The priestess took her time, as it was no simple job to measure and evaluate all the gifts and presents offered by her visitor. In the meantime, Max took as well good note about anything he saw, and drew too his own conclusions.

Finally, the Pythoness spoke: “You have come here for advice, and the gods are pleased to see what you have brought them”.

Max listened carefully, and thought “well, if statesmen, warlords, sages and wealthy men come here for advice, he who controls this oracle, controls the world”.

The Pythoness went on: “Your riches and your sacrifice to the gods prove your fate and destiny deserve the return of your recent past glory… but still, your recent sins have as well set hard stains that will require some penance from yours”.

All the alarms started buzzing in Max’s brain, but he was not willing to show any weakness.

“You can either become CEO in a mediocre company… smaller than your former one, much more resource-less, definitely less interesting for the press and media, and with a hell lot of fewer female contractors for marketing services”…

Max felt a shiver under the zipper in his pants, but found the strength to hold on. the news sound like Hell with a D to him.

“… or, as the most valuable asset of yours is the information in your head, we would let you stay with us and join the Priesthood of the Oracle”.

Max could not prevent this time the feeling of devastation of his. He was realizing for the first time that his ousting was having worse consequences than he had imagined in his way to the oracle. “Mediocre company with no female contractors or priesthood working for the Pythia”.

We are not sure about what did the Pythia understand for Max’s expression, but she was really puzzled. She expected Max to be as smart as he appeared when he led his former company to success.

“Max, wait a minute. Cheer up: This is not the Vatican. We take Priesthood here quite differently. I myself have not missed any company I have needed… and some of my senior priests are no candidates to classical sainthood either…”

That did sound much better to Max’s ears… “But, Pythia, will the other priests accept me in their ranks?”

“Max, Max, Max…”, the Pythia’s voice sounded soft, almost like a caress, while her hypnotic eyes penetrated deep into Max’s. “I AM THE ORACLE; the oracle is me… who do you think put all these priests and priestesses here? Do you really think there is anything here that happens without my permission, that escapes to my active approval, that is not brutally severed if I do not like it?”

Max gulped: “Then I would be somehow working for you"…”

“Would you prefer a mediocre company?”

“No, of course not”, said Max, though he was sure for a moment that his ego was outstretching him. “Any chances for career development?”

“Only gods know…”

The Pythia looked once more into Max’s eyes: “Done deal?, said she, offering her hand.

Max hardly heard himself saying yes, and felt a sting in his hand when he shook the Pythia’s. When the Pythia released him, he found two drops of his own blood signing his new contract.

While the Pythia put his arm around Max’s shoulders, she gently pushed him forward and said: “Now let’s put some Sun into the lives of the people in the world…”