“Fear of truth” is opposite courage

Ever since writing TSVOTEP I have had the sense that “fear” is not the opposite of courage. Fear is a survival reflex. Therefore, my new perspective is that fear is sometimes a good thing. That makes it different from the five other vices of ignorance, intellectual incompetence, weak character, pride and selfishness; none of which are ever good things. (Regarding the last one, selfishness is not a vice if a person’s basic needs for food, shelter and belonging have not been met.)

So, what is the opposite of courage? Everyone is fearful of things that can harm them, and they should be. Is there something that never should be feared? And would fearing that something be a vice that emerges from weak character? The opposite of courage is not the general feeling of fear, but the specific “fear of truth.”

An example is an addict’s denial. Until denial (fear of truth) becomes acceptance, treatment can’t be successful because denial blocks the courage needed to overcome addiction.

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Thanks Ernest Hemingway

Life is experienced in terms of what is beautiful and ugly, so I am uncomfortable with my “Cut the Crap” category. If I want to write about things that bring beauty into lives, I should not write about others’ “crap.”

I found this story, however, in Teaching as a Subversive Activity, the 1967 Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner book assigned to almost every education major in the 1970s (pp. 2-3):

In the early 1960s, an interviewer was trying to get Ernest Hemingway to identify the characteristics required for a person to be a “great writer.” As the interviewer offered a list of various possibilities, Hemingway disparaged each in sequence. Finally, frustrated, the interviewer asked, “Isn’t there any one essential ingredient that you can identify?” Hemingway replied, “Yes, there is. In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof, crap detector.”

Hemingway would say beautiful writing cuts the crap. I love irony.