“To be human is necessarily to be a vulnerable risk-taker; to be a courageous human is to be good at it.” ~ Jonathan Lear
Imagine you were born into a culture that cultivates the fear of God, whatever that “God” may be. Imagine that this culture deems this fear as righteous, and even has you blindly believing that fearing God makes you a better person somehow. Capitalizing on this concept, this imaginary culture also convinces you to fear all authority: police, government, and parental.
They convince you that such fear is necessary to keep things in “order.” They want you to be afraid because they are afraid, and it makes them feel better about their fear if everyone else is also afraid.
Like Bertrand Russell said, “Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.”
Fear begets fear. Fear also compounds fear, until entire systems are locked in a giant prison of fear from which it seems like there is no escape.
Now imagine: what would it take to get out from such fear conditioning and escape the prison? What kind of courageous act would it take to undermine this type of bone-deep fear? How do we become fearless?
Hug the hurricane
“Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” ~ Farrah Gray
First, it takes recognizing fear for what it is. It requires embracing fear itself, subsuming it, so that it can eventually be transformed into humor. But there can be no transformation without integration. The first act of courage is hugging the hurricane, tempting the tempest, staring into the abyss of fear itself.
Fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, it’s being absolutely terrified but doing it anyway. It’s intimacy with fear. We realize that the fear was nothing more than the ignorant small-mindedness of our insecure animal-self, a petty fraction-less fraction of who we really are. It resides in that part of us where we have allowed culture to take advantage of us: the insecure, victim of an oppressive culture.
The next step is not to beat yourself up about it. It must be okay that you were once a victim in order for it to be okay that you are becoming a warrior. The longer you beat yourself up, the longer you will remain a victim. Obsessing over how you were duped is a waste of your energy. Focus more on acceptance. Acknowledge it for what it was, spiritual bamboozlement, and then let it go. Letting it go allows for a sacred space where courage can replace worry.
Transforming fear from an unskillful worry into a skillful courage is the essence of fearlessness. It is the foundation upon which all other layers of fearlessness will be built upon. We are not unchanging beings in a static universe; we are changing beings within a dynamic cosmos. The more we accept this, the further we distance ourselves from victimization and the closer we get to achieving authentic spirituality.
Count coup on Ego
Now that the foundation is set, the next step is to get a little creative with our courage. One unique and powerful way of doing that is through the concept of counting coup. Counting coup is a Native American act of courage referring to the winning of prestige in battle.
A person wins prestige by uncommon acts of bravery in the face of fear. Danger and risk is required to count coup and it can be recorded by touching an enemy in battle and then escaping unharmed.
Counting coup can be done both literally and figuratively. It is a metaphor for dangerously and humorously shocking ourselves and our fellow man into wakefulness, a way of sneaking up on our fears and our certainties and giving them a little smack with our coup stick.
Governing the precept that all fear comes from the naive part of our insecure self, it stands to reason that we should first count coup on ourselves, and the best way to do that is to focus on the heart. Counting coup on the heart frees the heart to count coup on the universe.
Then we are suddenly free to count coup on anything: fear, our shadow, Death, and especially our pampered, inert, narcissistic and aggrandized egos. When we count coup on the ego we are counting coup on inertia, extremism and narcissism.
Counting coup on our ego turns the tables on the Soul-Ego struggle for power. By keeping our egos in check we allow for soul-centric energies (as opposed to egocentric energies) to emerge so that we can, like Thoreau said, “Live deliberately.”
Counting coup on Ego is counting coup on Super Ego; it jumpstarts both the individual and the collective soul. It makes us come alive. It gets us ever so closer to a more self-actualized state; a state where we even learn how to count coup on enlightenment itself.
Count Coup on God
“If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.” ~ Linji Yixuan
There is perhaps no more powerful an act of counting coup than that of counting coup on God. God, in almost all human cultures, represents a powerful authority that should be feared.
Counting coup on authority is the essence of fearlessness. Even if your culture’s God is perceived as good, moral, and benevolent, the act of counting coup on such a force is a courageous act of questioning power itself.
Like Darnell Lamont Walker said, “Sometimes our walls exist just to see who has the strength to knock them down.”
Counting coup is the ultimate leveling mechanism precisely because it holds power accountable through mockery and high humor, which prevents power from corrupting, and prevents absolute power from ever becoming a thing that can corrupt absolutely.
Counting coup on God takes insurmountable courage, but it also requires an excellent sense of humor. Don’t fear God, laugh at God. It is tantamount to a Nietzschean bitch-slap. Imagine sneaking up on God asleep in his/her/its/their holy chambers, smacking him/her/it/them in the divine ass, and then escaping with nary a scratch on your ninja-like soul. Oh the blasphemous audacity. Oh the sheer unadulterated gall. Oh the sacrilegious insolence. Oh the unholy provocation of it all.
Who would dare such an irreverent act of utter impudence? The answer: A person who is genuinely and authentically fearless, a person who could give two blue shits whether or not they will “burn in Hell for an eternity” or “be cast from the eternal glory of Heaven” by a bitter, vengeful, imbecile bully filled with self-righteous wrath.
What is realized after such an act? That God was an illusion to begin with. That this so-called God we are supposed to fear was never a God at all. It was a divine façade. It was parochial smoke & mirrors. It was nothing more than a prop for our egos to fawn over. Once it is realized for what it truly is, and the mask slips away, and the curtain reveals the pathetic wizard of our ego is at the controls –then the true God of Infinity is discovered.
A god that is everything and nothing, time and no time, mind and no-mind, universe and multiverse, micro and macro, you and me, all things interconnected in a sacred interdependent dance that truly takes your breath away.
Like Rumi said, “The ego is a veil between humans and God.”
And once the veil of the ego falls away, the true face of god is revealed, and that face is nothing more or less than Interdependent Infinity.
And here’s the beauty of it all: Even that God should have coup counted upon it, because at the end of the day, nothing is truly sacred. It should all be held accountable. It should all be questioned to the nth degree. It should all be susceptible to the sacrilegious, insouciant, undermining, blasphemous, audacious, but courageously humorous smack of the coup stick.
You want to be truly fearless? Then fear no man. Fear no God. Hold your coup stick high. Use it to keep the powers that be in check. Use it to poke holes in anything and everything that anybody else decides to blindly worship. If you would be truly fearless, a good sense of humor will be at the core of your courage.
Like Alan Watts said, “As they say in Zen, when you attain Satori, nothing is left for you in that moment than to have a good laugh.”
Laugh, and laugh hard, my fearless friends, especially in the face of the gods.