Courage vs. Fear

Being a true student is harder than being a true teacher. For the teacher, who of course was once a student, has already survived the soul’s harshest test, namely discovering that which is uncomfortable to see, while the student is still facing this trial. Not merely facing it, in fact, but wading through its unexpected depths, stepping painfully among its unseen jagged rocks, all the while sustaining its inevitable lashes of self-denial and the mocking calls of the hundred Sirens of Normalcy.

I am speaking, however, only of a true teacher and a true student. There are fewer of the former than of the latter, for the simple reason that most true students succumb under the stresses of the journey. As for the untrue teachers and students, who occupy the commonly understood social categories that borrow those same names, they bear no relation to the categories and issues of which I speak. 

Of the ferocious and merciless character of man in the pre-civilized state of nature, the character which leads him to view all strangers as enemies to be killed without pity or remorse, Rousseau says, by way of an explanation, “Knowing nothing, they fear everything.”

This is simple and elegant wisdom, but it also opens out on a wider observation, one that we might describe as Heraclitean: All self-protective rigidity is grounded in the very opposite of its self-described and publicly declared sources.

Feminists, for example, claim to be fighting to empower women; in truth they are merely seeking to normalize their own state of frightened self-loathing, to save themselves from the majority opinion that so unnerves them. Stated simply, “I cannot be accepted as beautiful and enticing in this world; therefore, this world must be forced to alter its perception of what is beautiful and enticing, in order to make me feel accepted.”

The feminists, in this respect, are merely a particular instantiation of progressivism as a species, which in turn is merely one form of the genus, unnatural hatred. Nature frightens them, so they invest all their energy in the effort to overturn nature, to destroy it, to rip it limb from limb and burn the terrifying remains on the pyre of “social justice.” They seek to annihilate, to mask, to reject and beat down, precisely where the strong and healthy seek to grow, to reveal, to accept and face proudly. That is, the unnatural, like the pre-civilized, crave death, where the natural and civilized crave self-knowledge. 

“Knowing nothing, they fear everything.”

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