That’s a powerful question, one I contemplate tonight as I change into my sweats, sip my cup of boiling hot chocolate with marshmallows, and binge watch in ad nauseum the latest sexy actor that’s caught my attention on Netflix (Mads Mikkelsen, thank you very much).
I uncramp my fingers from the white knuckle 80-mile trip I just ended through the season’s first measurable snowfall. I tootled along at 40 miles per hour as other vehicles flew by me in a hurry (at midnight?), past the less-fortunate drivers whose mechanics or reckless stupidity left them buried to the wheel wells in a ditch full of drifts.
As a hobby, I travel to deal casino games for charity events, holiday parties, and corporate gatherings. I pitch cards and teach novice players Blackjack, poker, baccarat, and beat the house. I relish donning my crisp white tuxedo shirt, my lipstick red satin bow tie and cumberbund, and my gold and silver sleeve garters. I love every minute of interacting with the patrons and polishing my team members in the finer points of working the games and the people. By no means do I discount the celebrity status that accompanies controlling humans’ decisions, actions, and money…plastic and worthless as it may be.
As eyes are constantly drawn to my hands when I bring the table to life, I choose carefully the bling I wear to beautify my fingers and my wrists. I display my sapphires and my topazes and my intricately-decorated watches.
But my favorite piece – the attention-getter, the ice-breaker, the conversation-starter – is a black leather strap adorned with eight shimmering gold sliding capital letters: F E A R L E S S .
Inevitable is the occasion when at least one player will notice the bangle and ask, “Are you fearless?”. On one evening, a woman had gone so far as to ask me if I’d always been fearless. The answer to that required little to no thought. “Always,” I affirmed with absolute confidence.
To these questions, I will immediately answer with the most charismatic, cleverest, or smart-assed response.
“What do you think?”, “In every conceivable way”, or “That’s what the label says”.
With my pointed quips, I set them at ease and supply assurance that humor is most definitely welcomed in my presence.
When the evening comes to a close, when the gifts are collected, when the tuxedo shirt is hung neatly back in its reserved space in my closet and I as the entertainer have reverted back to mere mortal once again, I ponder what it means to be devoid of fear. Do I wear my bracelet for others’ amusement or for my own validation? Without doubt, it is a healthy combination of both.
The definition of the word fearless is simply this: lacking fear. It is synonymous with bold, brave, courageous, intrepid, valiant, gallant, plucky, lionhearted, heroic, daring, audacious, indomitable, and unafraid.
Check, check, and check. And “ballsy” is my favorite. Let’s also not omit tenacious.
Fear is a human emotion more powerful than love, hate, or indifference could ever hope to be. It governs some of the most important decisions – rational or irrational – that we make on a daily basis.
Undoubtedly, fear is an amalgamation of peripheral states and perceptions inclusive of anxiety, ignorance, and societal and moral norms. Humans will sidestep actions for fear of rejection, emotional and physical pain, avoidance, and punishment.
For example, a devoutly religious person will often refrain from killing another human being for fear of falling out of favor with their god (rejection) and waiving their rightful seat in the kingdom of heaven.
Others less-religiously inclined will avoid taking another life for fear of going to jail (avoidance).
Mistakenly, fearlessness is believed to be a by-product of recklessness. The assumption that a person open to new adventures or conducting themselves in a manner perceived by mainstream society as dangerous is automatically labeled reckless.
There is a modicum of truth to that statement, but there is an equally-arguable strength to the notion that the most fearless humans are the most educated and highly informed. Directly or through osmosis, that individual has gained the details, knowledge, and wisdom to justify activities otherwise shied away from by those considerably less aware.
As with most events and experiences that shape us as humans, the question can easily be posed: is fear innate or is it learned? And unlike some of the world’s tribulations to which we are all exposed, I am convinced that fear is learned, yet not necessarily taught.
A child stumbles on the sidewalk and scrapes her knee. She begins to cry and her mother, in a panic, races to the child’s side thereby endorsing the child’s fear of stumbling. In another scenario, a child stumbles and scrapes his knee. His mother – panicked though she may be – rationally and calmly assures the child that he is fine, thus, foregoing the screaming fit and instilling a higher level of confidence and absence of fear for this child to remember in future instances of walking along the sidewalk.
My experiences, my life, my comparisons, my exposure to the world have made me fearless. Though I feel pain and joy and concern just as much as would any other person, I do not dwell on the fear of rejection or complexity that each can certainly hold.
I do not fear emotional revelry. I do not fear conflict. I do not fear being the center of attention, nor do I fear solitude. I embrace them all as that over which there can be little control, but that which will always be present.
Expressing love and anger and appreciation present no hesitation for me – I feel them all and, as an educated person understanding the psychology of behavior, have never fought to subdue that which is interwoven into my physical and mental fiber tighter than Egyptian cotton.
And though that brand of “fearlessness” has often produced misunderstanding masked as hatred and appreciation charading as avoidance, it is a standard that gives people reason for pause – to consider a novel point of view, to determine why they’d disagree with my stance…or to marvel at how someone could be so bat-shit crazy. In essence, it has served as an adjunct humanistic professor of sorts.
Fearlessness- when completely boiled down – is understanding that that which can be broken can nearly always be fixed if it is meant to be. It is the appreciation of the most remarkable things transpiring when boundaries are eliminated and perceived limitations overcome.
Most importantly, fearlessness is a profound courage despite hidden consequences; a power fueled by one foot put in front of the other in the face of adversity or that which is unfamiliar.
At the next event I toss cards, I’ll consider this rant and, when queried again if I am fearless, I’ll laugh at them and then to myself, and I’ll answer…in my own head or verbally outright –