Embarrassment, guilt, fear and resilience

Meteorites are such a treat.  It’s before dawn in the Delta and I’m just back from a little walk outside.  A huge one streaked across the Southern sky.  The sky’s nearly always a little murkier here than at Meadowcreek, but we’ve got so much more sky than in the deep, narrow Meadowcreek valley.  The Delta is flatter than a pancake and a great place for nighttime walks to see what you can see.  It must be sad to be a person scared of the dark and not able to go out and enjoy meteorites.


Fear is a debilitating obsession with personal vulnerability, the lack of resilience.  You’re afraid something is going to happen which will hurt you.  Sure there is plenty to be scared of in this world.  You can dwell on how horrible things are or you can focus on the good and pure and true and try to increase them in the world.

Now that we have eliminated all the predators which used to eat us, the only predator left for man is other men.   But that’s the way it’s always been.  We have a lot of healthy competition with each other.  And some not so healthy. Some people are just no good.  They survive and thrive by taking advantage of others.  They are worse than predators, they are parasites. They extract from others and never provide anything that will help others grow.

Every living system is made of multiple competing and cooperating subsystems. In a resilient system, the subsystems have modular connectivity.  That is, they have a lot of connections to other subsystems but they can survive on their own if need be. A human group is a system made up of people.

However, all resiient systems are not made up of resilient subsystems.  Some systems which can outlast and defeat all sorts of threats and disturbance have subsystems which are very vulnerable without the larger scale system–in other words, they have no modularity.

For example, a family may be very resilient, but one member of the family, a handicapped child or an old grandmother, may be very fragile.  The overall resilience of the family can be increased by the increased cohesiveness required to care for a fragile child.

A wife may be very deferential to her husband and unable to survive without a man.  Yet she could be the rock on which the entire family is based as long as she has a male to serve in the protection role.

A man may love and protect his very vulnerable and fragile wife who provides the love which enables him to survive in a tough world.  Complementary diversity is a good thing, a quality of resilient systems.

Other people somehow become separated from their family and alienated from society.  They don’t need a man, they don’t need anyone.  They feel they can make it on their own.  Many go to the grave without realizing how far from the truth they have strayed.  Some react by saying there are multiple truths and all are equally valid.  Tell Nature that.  Nature doesn’t care what you think or how you philosophize.

Man is a social animal.  We need people.  We crave honest interaction with people.

However, some people should just be avoided.  As a Dutch Calvinist theologian once told me, there is no place for guilt and embarrassment in your life.  Sure all people are “totally depraved.”  But we don’t let it get us down.  People can try to make us feel guilty about something, but it doesn’t stick.  Unlike many orthodox Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews, we know we are guilty of messing up and will continue to be guilty of messing up, but we also know we will just plow ahead, do what’s right and not get depressed and worried.

Some people are so racked with guilt or worry that they try as hard as they can to make other people feel the same way.  That is their world; it seems very real and inevitable to them; they can’t even fathom anyone who isn’t phased by guilt, worry or embarrassment. They are so wracked with guilt and worried about embarrassing themselves that they can’t imagine anyone who isn’t.

Esox_americanus_americanusWe have a good fishing pond at Meadowcreek.  You can kinda see it from the road if you know where to look.  It’s got a species in it that I’d never heard of before I got to MC.  Pickerel.  I’d caught pike in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, but I didn’t know they had a Southern relative.  These guys love to jump out of the water when you hook them. I think sometimes they jump out of the water just because they can.

Most fish just stay underwater all the time.  That’s the only world they know.  Manipulative people are like that.  The world they live in requires them to be manipulative and they create a world where manipulation of people is rewarded.  They also instill it in everyone they meet.  Manipulative people are also attracted to each other.  They don’t really have good friends, but their associates are either fellow manipulators or under their thumb.

They are like a fish who lives in the water and couldn’t imagine what it would be like outside.  Some fish learn to jump out of the water and get a brief experience in the non-water life, but most fish have no idea what it’s like outside the water.

Some people think they can manipulate other people into feeling embarrassment and guilt.  And they can in some cases.  They use this skill with Machiavellian glee.

They will use anything they can to control others around them and make those others do what they want.  They try to induce guilt and embarrassment to manipulate others.  They are toxic, unless you understand them and can manage them.  You have to just play to whatever good you can find in them, encourage that, and ignore their silly, pathetic attempts to control.

These folks are like meteorites.  They are just flashes in the pan.  You can enjoy the flash they make because you know they are dying.  And you don’t want to get too close to one.  They can hurt you.

Keep your joy.  Share it with them when you run into them.  Hope they come around, but don’t count on it, especially if they are over 35 or so.  They are lost and you are joyful and resilient.