Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why I Am A Cautious Coward

I've given much thought to this, whether I am really a coward, or just extremely cautious.

Whichever it is, I think I know the primary reason -- namely, that I did not get killed in the Halifax Explosion (the topic of my last post). Having survived this tragic event, along with the experiences that followed, why would I go out of my way to prove how brave I was by deliberately running risks? Living in seven addresses in the two and a half years after the Explosion, making adjustments to each, why would I not play it safe, if possible? By the age of six and a half, I was a very cautious creature.

One of the other main reasons to be careful was that I was small, and always in the company of others who could slap me down, physically speaking. But I was smart, and did homework for the big boys, who became my protectors. To belong to a group did not seem to pay, because gangs beat up gangs, and the small members got it the worst. All through my growing up years, the benefits of being careful and waiting until I had some advantage were emphasized to me. And the flip side of being watchful in order to avoid trouble is that while observing developments, opportunities stare at you, first to make friends, and second to get in on good things early.

Along the way, from time to time, the question of when caution become cowardice intrudes. If I ever solve this one, I'll let you know.

33 Comments:

At 12:06 AM, Blogger kenju said...

Hmmmm.....my mom taught me caution, but I never thought of it as cowardice.I was taught that it was using discretion and common sense to be cautious. Maybe it was cowardice, and I just didn't realize it.

 
At 12:45 AM, Blogger allswell said...

I think you lean more to the "hero" side of the continuum, myself--a Canadian Inspiration :) Going by your Wikipedia entry, I see an educator and a maker of museums and libraries... caution may have aided you, but surely not cowardice? If cowardice had taken over, would you have been able to dust off the ashes of the explosion?

 
At 3:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All through my growing up years, the benefits of being careful and waiting until I had some advantage were emphasized..."

Some might call this "opportunism".

 
At 6:26 AM, Blogger Ester Beatriz said...

HIIIII!!! I'm from Brazil and I was very happy when I knew about you, the fact of being a blogueiro with as much age! Excuse, my english is bad, but I am still learning.... :D
Then I would like to congratulate you and to say that you he is adorable!
I also have one blog and I would like to be as you one day... to write until having this age!
You is an inspiration for all the other people of the world! Desire much health for you!
Have a nice day and sorry about the errors of english!

 
At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Don!

I am glad for this entry. I have always wondered about this cautious/cowardice thin line for many years as well but never wrote it down so succinctly.

I sometimes feel cowardly as well but I know that caution is the means to stay aware of others' actions when I am at a clear disadvantage.

For instance, lashing out instead of watching and studying the other person is essential especially on a new job or in a new environment. The other person in this environment clearly has the experience and advantage. Ego and pride may not be my first choice of tool. Eventually with experience, caution is less relied upon as competence and confidence takes over.

Probably, Don, like a hammer, screwdriver, and trowel, caution is just another choice in our toolbox of life to use to build a solid foundation of how we want to live--so to speak. It's just another choice we could rely upon because it works so well until another tool is required.

tf

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger LaurieM said...

One way to tackle the question is to look at the opposite of cowardice. I believe the best definition of bravery is when someone is scared to do something the know they must do, and the follow through with it anyway. So I suppose cowardice a lack of follow through.

My son recently had braces put on his teeth and he was very scared before the procedure. But he went through with it and I told him that was true bravery and courage.

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger katsumi said...

Hi Don -- it is a very interesting topic.. i think it is something like the ying and the yang, or a balance between two dominant forces. Some choose to ignore the side of caution, while some rely on it two heavily. Caution has rarely done me wrong, but at times I feel like I over-analyze the matters of a situation rather than trusting my instinct. You are right though, it is a strange gray area it seems between caution and what some might call obsessive-compulsive. For example, when I leave the house in the morning, it is hard to for me to ignore the many things in the house which might possibly go wrong while I am away. The cautious and logical part of my brain tells me that if I am mindful of them, I decrease my chances of having a problem (for example, if I remember to un-plug my laptop AC adapter, I decrease the chance that the house will burn down because of electrical malfunction, which is a realistic threat) -- the problem with this at times is that if I follow every item to that much detail, their end up being like 20-30 things to check every time I leave the building ;) I can't bring myself to ignore them, ie: fly out of the house on a whim, like the free spirit that I am -- knowledge is both power but also a curse. It becomes very hard to ignore what you know, even if it complicates your life. In any case, I think eventually the part of your brain responsible for caution can become very acute and doesn't require so much attention; my goal is to be able to asses a situation as quickly as possible, and balance caution with instinct. I agree with what Laurie says about cowardice.. I think it is related to caution to the extent that if you decline to act on the final judgment of your mind because you are afraid of what might happen, that is cowardice.

 
At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Ook said...

I, like any guy, have wrestled the cowardice question.

I finally decided that most people who are ruled by fear, maybe most poeple ("the mass of men live in quiet desperation"), are isolated by and afraid of something that happened long ago.

Stephen King uses that theme in much of his horror. Isolated kids are haunted by monsters or by adults or by monsters using adults or by adults oblivious to the monsters or by adults under the influence of monsters. Often the kids are grown up and return to resolve with the monster as adults. Or there is a heritage of generations involved. Didn't King even write that there is no heroism like the heroism of childhood in "Stand By Me?"

Then again documented heroes are forever telling reporters that anyone would have done what they did given the circumstances, that there was nothing unusual about their behavior, that they didn't have time to get scared.

I think most of us are mostly a mix and excel sometimes, maybe not others.

One thing I would call courageous, a nonagenarian who keeps an open mind, tries a cutting edge technology scene and doesn't pontificate.

 
At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don
Last Post and having just spend a day moving your wife to a nursing home... You are a gem, take care of yourself.

 
At 3:24 AM, Blogger With Hammer And Tong...The LetterShaper said...

Very much enjoyed the time I spent reading and looking around your site...as a poet, an avid reader, and hard to please, I found it a most rewarding look. Thank you...

 
At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Justin Dunn said...

Hi Don,

I've just been recommended to read this blog and I'm finding it delightfully different.

I don't think your caution was cowardice - more like sensible self-preservation! My thing at school was to be the clown; it kept me in with the "big lads" and thus I too had protectors. Surely only a fool actually wants to be beaten up?

I'm going to bookmark this site and like my friend Graeme, recommend it to others.

Great stuff.

Justin

 
At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr,
Thank you for your interesting ideas...
I read the following Bhuddist prayer on this:
"May I have the courage to change what I can and have to change,
May I have the insight and acceptance to see what I cannot change,
May I have the widsom to know the difference..."
Maybe we can only be very attentive, and never know for sure that we are not a coward once and a while...Are we really sure that cowardice exists
I Think it is a concept to be very carefull with...

 
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At 5:47 PM, Anonymous portable explosion proof floodlights said...

Being cautiuous doesnt mean anything bad it just means that you care about your life and you to preserve it as much as possible.
But that can only last I mean how long? Well we all like to have fun and when we do we dont really think about being that cautious, after all, its just fun :P

 
At 9:34 PM, Anonymous portable explosion proof floodlights said...

Hey ya'll!
We all just wanna have fun so being cautious isnt really the smartest idea. How exactly can one be safe while sky diving, by strapping into a parachute?? No! being safe and cautious would mean that you're on the ground, not flying sky high!!!

 
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