Tuesday, July 28, 2015


A comment from a reader the other day has me thinking about timidity.  It's a quality that derives, obviously, from fear--fear of getting what I want or, paradoxically, not getting what I want.  Each outcome is equally to be feared.  The Buddhist approach to timidity, I suppose, lies in non-attachment to the outcome.  Thus I am able to keep writing in these pages without worry about the stats, the numbers of "page views" that are tracked by the Blogger system and can be readily accessed through the site.  I'm happy to know that there are people throughout the world who read The Buddha Diaries, but I am less obsessive, these days, about checking out the numbers.

Timidity, for the creative person--the artist, the writer, the musician--becomes the source of suffering because it's so hard not to have attachment to the outcome of what we do.  There's a lot of work involved in bringing a work of art into the world--the story, the song, the painting.  There's also a lot of vulnerable self involved, an exposure of sometimes tender, hidden parts.  So there's risk in putting something of oneself out into a world that can be unwelcoming, even cruel.  We risk negative critical response, even ridicule.  We risk indifference, for some a fate even worse than contempt.

Which is where timidity comes in.  We want response, recognition, praise.  We may even want financial success.  What we don't want is the negative response.  So we're stuck in the fear between the two, what we want and what we don't want, and the attachment to both or either makes us suffer.

So the easy path is to shrink into timidity.  But that's not the answer.  If we bring something into the world--so my own thinking goes--we owe it to that something to give it every opportunity to thrive.  It's a common metaphor, to compare an art work to a child--not one that I much care for, because a life is qualitatively different and more valuable, as I see it, than a work of art; but there's some truth to it.  With it comes the obligation to nurse and nurture it out into the world.  Some artists are good at this, some others, not.  Some, in a word, are timid.

So I think about this; have thought about it often. I once asked a teacher about the danger of falling into lassitude in meditation.  His answer: Breathe fiercely.   We are sad sacks without an element of fierceness in our lives.  And so I wonder, too: Where do you stand?  How fierce are you?


gregg chadwick said...

Thanks Peter. A very helpful post!

Carol Es said...

Great blog entry, Peter! Gee, I wonder what reader that commented set this into motion. ;)

You ask a good question here at the end. I have often thought, 'I am stronger than I am.' Meaning, I am fierce and have the fortitude to withstand the elements that rain down upon my work as an artist, but I am too attached to what you are describing here regarding what I want and what I don't want - and am fearful. Very fearful. Always fearful.

But I know I must be brave. Because of I wasn't so damn scared, it wouldn't be courageous, would it? To put myself out there the way I do. I just wish I wasn't so attached, as you have described because that does cause the suffering and the extreme sadness. I don't know if it is possible - at least for me - to let go of this attachment.

All that being said, it brings me back to the idea of self-sabotage. Timidity would cause such a thing. But perhaps not knowing what it is that you really want can also be a factor. Artists think they are after the praise, the acknowledgement, feeling relevant, finance, status, etc. We want to be seen. We want to be loved (it's such a basic need really, that's maybe it's hard to determine our goals).

Anonymous said...

I need to be more fierce; I fear. SR

PeterAtLarge said...

So glad to know that I have readers with whom my words and feelings resonate. Thanks, all, for commenting. I like, especially, Carol's thought: if I wasn't so damn scared, it wouldn't be courageous... Fierceness and bravery go hand in hand with fear.