Thursday, August 06, 2009

More Understanding
Leads to Less Fear

'Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.'
--Marie Curie. What was true in her day is even truer today. May all my friends, acquaintances and readers who are suffering through the agony of career transitions find some small solace in this wisdom.

31 Comments:

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

So whatever happened to "ignorance is bliss"? Knowledge brings a different kind of fear I find, the fear of the known as opposed to the fear of the unknown. I'm not sure which is worse. I guess much will depend on how fertile your imagination is.

 
At 1:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Interesting perspective, Jim (as always). I suppose I've never been a big fan of the idea that ignorance is bliss. But now that you mention it, it's perhaps just another way of saying something I am a fan of, and have written about here often: the amateur spirit. Our friend Art Durkee has helpfully reminded me that in the Zen tradition that equates to something equally revered: "beginner's mind." So you've nicely helped connect all those things for me today, all the way from Scotland, for which I thank you. Here's hoping others may weigh in on this topic as well.

 
At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

John:

Are you reading my mind?

I did a blog posting this morning about on phobias. But I deleted it an hour later, because I was afraid of what people would think.

I have a very fertile imagination. Somebody once told me that creative types are often neurotic types, because they run all the scenarios through their heads.

Oh, if there were only something that would turn off my imagination sometimes.

 
At 2:16 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Donna, may you be less concerned about what people will think, and more comfortable saying what you think needs to be said (I know women who were raised when we were growing up tend to struggle with that sometime). As for reading your mind, this is merely the latest of many examples of our being on the same page in weird and wonderful ways. That's just part of being writers, I think. We're a tribe of likeminded folks.

Finally, may you never turn off your imagination, but instead find productive ways to better channel it. We all struggle with that, and none of us ever really find full answers. But we can get a little better about it day by day, if we're lucky. Anyway, thanks for making me smile today, DM.

 
At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

Now that's a very intriguing thought about channeling imagination in a productive way.

So the next time I worry, I'll just grab a can of paint and get something constructive done.

Why didn't I think of that? :)

The captcha is picarf (I think I have that disease).

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That could of course also lead to a discussion about wellness (especially since you work in that field every day). Do you exercise regularly? And how does that relate to your moods and productivity?

 
At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

I don't exercise every day, but I know it helps. There are too many times I come home and just want to veg because my brain feels fried. That's exactly the time I should go for a walk or bike ride - I do sometimes, but not enough. Am working on it.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Britta said...

Donna: I know just what you mean about the post-work veg. I find a lot of stress-relief with yoga and walking my dog, but I also go to cheesy Jazzercise classes and yell "Woo!" to the latest Britney Spears and Rhianna songs while bouncing to the beat in hot pink tennis shoes. Then going home and watching TV feels more like a treat than a surrender.

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Donna, I struggle with that same thing, as I think all people who do largely sedentary work that requires extended attention do. Our bodies tend to follow our brains in being fried at night, and hungering to do nothing but veg. Which is why sometimes exercising in the morning is the answer, if your energy and schedule permits. That's not real amenable to my rhythms, since my habit for my entire career has been to start with breakfast out and lots of reading to begin the day's mental juices. But if I were smarter and more disciplined, I'd find a way to somehow fit 20 minutes of cardio exercise in there somewhere too (just like how I really ought to switch to swimming laps for less wear & tear on the joints; but I HATE swimming). It becomes a little more important to tend to this task with every passing year.

Britta, I'm looking forward to seeing that video of you whooping it up to Britney in your hot pink tennies. That ought to get some serious traffic for a long time.

 
At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

I used to be an awesome swimmer. I could do 72 laps (a mile) no problem several times a week. I love swimming, but I hate sharing a lane with other people, or waiting my turn, or the whole thing of changing clothes in a sweaty icky locker room. That's why I need to win the lottery. In my fantasy I have a lap pool in my back yard and complete seclusion.

 
At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

I have a proposal. There should be a Cleveland bloggers walking club. We can walk together, talk a blue streak and before you know it we will have walked 20 miles without noticing it.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think you're onto something, Donna. Perhaps we can combine this with our next meet-up, which is coming up in a couple weeks. Maybe power walking first, followed by power drinking. I'm surely up for that.

Ironically, a new friend with a good blog, Dave (who happens to be a writer, IT guy and consultant), happened to post this item today, which addresses the underlying subject we've been talking about, how exercise feeds creativity and the mental sides of idea formation. He had an aha moment as he was running (which tends to happen a lot, with all that oxygen flowing to the brain):

http://www.davecrainonline.com/training-to-be-excellent.html

 
At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

Thanks for the link. I will check it out. Everytime I come up with ideas for my friends to exercise together, nobody ever really wants to do it...Perhaps I need more friends.

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger Britta said...

Is he related to the Crains in publishing in Chicago?

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

We could all use more of the right kind of friends. And having something interesting to talk about while exercising together surely helps. I admit that when I used to run (okay, more like trot or jog), I was dead set against talking while doing that. I needed all the oxygen I could get for that. But brisk walking is of course more conducive to it.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I don't think he is, Britta, and those Crain's, as you know, are pretty well spread around the country. But I'll be sure to ask him next time I see him. Then again, he may see this, as he's commented a couple times. So if you're out there, Dave...

 
At 10:40 PM, Anonymous steve said...

I think Curie was talking about science and health, not the depth of our economic woes. Do you really find that knowing more has helped you fear less? You have had your finger on the pulse of this very ill patient for quite some time.

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

Oh, wow, Donna! I used to swim a mile or more 3-4 times a week, too, back in high school and college. I absolutely loved swimming, and I'm trying to devote one or two times a week to it again, now that I was able to get a YMCA membership.

And speaking of ignorance ... if it IS bliss, why aren't more people happy?

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I'm sure she was also, Steve. But I'm saying I agree with the principle generally, including about the economy, because it's just as subject to human nature as everything else. And yes, I think that knowledge and understanding very nearly always make things less scary, at least for me, in part because understanding leads to, for instance, the knowledge that whatever is bad at the moment will turn around in time. I'm a history guy by nature, impulse and even training (it was my major in college), and knowing and understanding the history of anything tends to remind you about how cyclical events really are.

But history without a moral imagination only takes you so far, and here I circle back, as I meant to earlier, with Jim's used of the word "imagination" in the initial comment in this thread. When you blend historical knowledge with the kind of insight encompassed in, say, M.L. King's famous (and wonderful) saying that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," you get something else entirely: a kind of secular faith that things will eventually turn out all right, with the emphasis on eventually. And if you happen to be able to add, as I can, a measure of spiritual faith to that secular faith, that feeling will be all the stronger.

But I've gone on far too long about this. I'd love to hear what others think about all this.

 
At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Donna said...

Appears you've hit on a hot topic here, John. Remember that old journalism adage? Sex sells? And its corollary - If it bleeds it leads? Sex & death - the two human obsessions. It all comes down to those big 2 - and when you reach a certain age you wonder why you spent any time worrying about the first when the second is the biggie.

If I can draw an analogy from the Catholic handbook - career opportunities, promotions, keeping up with Joneses, vacations. Those are all venial concerns.

This frailty of the human condition is what draws us all together. I think we seek out those souls who can face our greatest fear with great equanimity. They help to anchor us.

Sorry if I freak anyone out this morning. It's a middle age perspective coming over me and probably not the healthiest one at that!

John, dear, you need to write something else, so we can change the subject ;)

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Gee, Donna, you're extra deep this morning, which I like. And funny, but I was actually just thinking a few moments ago that I liked this discussion so much, that in order to encourage that it continue, I might well wait to post anything new until this evening. So by all means, let it continue all day and beyond. The frailty of the human condition strikes me as a sub-theme that we might well continue to milk for months.

 
At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Donna said...

Oh, all right. Have it your way :)
I guess it's your prerogative. It is YOUR blog after all.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You're damn right it is, Donna! Seriously, though, I'm only too happy to share this blog. After all, it wouldn't be half as interesting without the additions from smart folks such as you. So you have my full permission to think of it as yours also (of course that means I'll claim part ownership of yours as well).

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Amazing the discussion one quote inspired. I do enjoy visiting your blog so much John, you really spark the fire for so many of us.

Perhaps the most encouraging knowledge we can find for ourselves in discouraging times is to remember what we already know. I think the panel you have commenting here proves as much.

I think it goes without saying that if we take care of our bodies, our minds follow. We know this, yet so many of us reject that very basic lesson. I've recently challenged myself to run a 5K by the fall just so I can say I accomplished something athletic in my lifetime. I find that forcing my body to move and pushing the limits of what I thought I could do pays off in the entire mind, body, soul connection.

Plus, the healthier I am, the less I have to worry about "sick" insurance. Love overusing those parenthesis.

 
At 10:02 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

It is pretty remarkable, isn't it, Kim? And good luck with that 5K. Keep us posted on that front.
When I lived in Chicago, I remember seeing a poster on the side of a bus, a quote from Robert Schuler (whose name I didn't know then, but whom I later learned was a televangelist, of all things). It said "tough times never last but tough people always do." The creepy source notwithstanding, something about that simple sentence has always stayed with me. And this conversational string reminded me of it once more.

 
At 2:52 PM, Anonymous steve said...

You did not go on too long about that at all. It was a well thought out and helpful answer. Thank you.

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for reading, Steve. I'm assuming you may be my friend Steve H., the scientist. Whether you are or not, I appreciate you adding to the topic.

 
At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

'Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.'

Sums up the business model of Fox News and its extended spiritual family. Ignorance is bli$$ in America.

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You mean it's the reverse of the Fox business model, don't you? They thrive on ignorance and fear-mongering.

 
At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

I should have added that their model is the contrapositive of Marie's quote.

Understand more -> fear less

is logically equivalent to

(Not) fear less -> (Not) understand more

Or less precisely,

Fear more -> understand less

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Glad we got that cleared up.

 

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