Gun Shy

It won’t surprise you to hear that one is less than inclined to revisit whitewater rafting on the heels of a particularly bouncy spill. Likewise one is excusably hesitant to retry a backflip if the consequences of the previous effort were rather awkward. In short we are comprehensibly reluctant to repeat an act after being burned. When however we adopt a general wariness of living, the inclination is less about caution and more about fear and we risk becoming as useless as a gun shy bird dog. Being wary of taking risks is one thing but it is quite another to be afraid of the consequences of error. Becoming panic-stricken and petrified of living goes far beyond timidity.

One has to wonder how we imperceptibly graduate from being a robust individual with an affirmative attitude to living to a retiring dullard nervous about doing anything. Perhaps youth was more about guts than gusto; perhaps we were then better equipped to deal with the complications of life. Maybe we even had the wherewithal or bloody-mindedness to rebound from the frontiers we confronted. Eventually however we begin to rationalize our amortization. We may even be prompted to carry with us an arsenal of defences, like a gun shy woman who carries pepper spray whenever she walks alone. But the truth will out as we face the penetrating question within us: Can I do this?

Likely you’ve heard the quip attributed to one of those brainy chaps like Einstein or Socrates who said that the more he learned, the more he realized how much he didn’t know. I don’t know about you but I take the point. There is additionally some comfort in that philosophy; it at least makes one feel less a Philistine. It also affords consolation for the increasing weight of life’s inexplicable nuances and loggerhead debates. Rather than perceiving a task as merely insurmountable there is authority for attributing to it a level of inscrutability which indeed merits some circumspection and distance.

Making excuses for what amounts to little more than pusillanimity is not however very persuasive in the end. Even if one were to forgive a lack of stamina on the theory that one is by virtue of maturity or experience able to bear the deprivation of mental acuity, the flavour of defeat nonetheless lingers. The simple fact is that we’ve become gun shy. Regrettably it is all too easy to lapse into the doldrums and sluggishly accept the resulting inactivity. Why after all push the envelope so to speak? Surely there has to come a point in life when there is no longer the need to fulfill what is mere obligation? When at last is it both opportune and appropriate to put down the trowel?

This rhetoric is unhappily no more convincing than any other pretext for inadequacy. As long as one is feeling squashed by what we face, there is nothing glamorous about it at all. Redundant doesn’t begin to capture the sentiment!

The solution of course is an illustration of the principle that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. This always struck me as a moderately trite observation until I sorted out that, apart from fear, it was often impossible to isolate a particular source of the threat one felt. Upon examination I have discovered that the discomposing element of a venture is frequently not entirely without foundation; more specifically the culprit is not one’s inability to deal with the issue but rather the discernment which we unintentionally bring to bear upon it. More of that Socratic stuff if you will, the piling on of knowledge to the point of temporarily immobilizing ourselves and detracting from our fathoming the problem. Nonetheless this shouldn’t deter us from pursuing a dissection of the mental offensive we now meet face to face with hostile intent. It is by contrast a small compliment to the blackguard who is too thick to appreciate any refinement of the issue that he is not rendered inoperative by it. We on the other hand, though suffering the current indignity of being gun shy, will with almost plodding patience and analysis see ourselves clear of the conundrum. We may at last dismiss the riddle as a mere brainteaser but it certainly won’t paralyze us with the inertia of indecision. The trophy for such exceptional behaviour is pure inner satisfaction plus the knowledge that we did it!