Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Just before midnight, someone I appreciate very much told me that I was once a 'rather intimidating individual'. That person no longer feels that way in such a negative sense. This occasioned a moment of reflection. Why, and how?

The word 'intimidating' means 'inspiring of fear', from the Latin timeo - to fear. It literally means 'to put fear into'. It isn't quite flattering, although further inquiry absolves me from being a source of true phobia. The Good Book says that perfect love drives out fear; this would seem to imply that fear is an unhealthy emotion between people who are supposed to have an agapean relationship - whether in one direction or both. The same verse links fear to punishment; this implies that if I were intimidating, it would be because of my capacity as someone in authority.

In this last capacity, I confess I believe that the ability to inspire fear is an important gift. From our enlightened and rational post-modern vantage, we view fear as an unnecessary impediment to civilisation, a shadowplay of ancient superstitions and primordial fantasies into which we regress under stress. But I believe that fear is no impediment; our overweaning sense of self is a far greater burden. The same people who tell us that the universe dwarfs us into obscurity will also tell us that we should have a large sense of the grandeur of humanity. The two are compatible only as a last-ditch defence against atheistic insignificance. For the odd thing is that it is a sense of the fear of God which actually tells us how valuable we are.

Fearing the impersonal universe is nothing. Fearing a person is to understand something about the nature of self and of intelligence and of society. Fearing a personal God is to understand how mighty the things of the spirit are, and how great we are in our smallness, that we can apprehend the Almighty at all. In a purely physical universe, scale is scale, size is truth. In a metaphysical universe, scale is irrelevant and being is all.

Which leads me back to the person who once felt intimidated, and no longer does. It is a mature relationship of minds and hearts which takes away the element of fear. Moses spoke to God as a man speaks with his friend - and he risked much in that relationship, but feared nothing in it. It is my dearest wish that I might be able to intimidate when necessary, but that it will never become gratuitous to me, and never an obstacle to genuine friendship.

To you who inspired these thoughts, my thanks. I know that you have mentioned my 'force of personality', and others have complained about other elements of my nature. It was never my desire to inspire overmuch fear, but to guide with a firm hand; this time of reflection will help me do that.

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Anonymous Becca said...

I used to be intimidated by you. You noticed that when I first met you I think.
*grin* I've been told that I'm intimidating too. It's amusing when you find out how good friends found you intimidating. But it makes you wonder how many potential good friends you turned away by simply appearing intimidating.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 10:31:00 am  
Anonymous van said...

I like this post :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 9:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Jiesheng said...

Really now.. I think this post is contrary to what I and many others (well possibly from my year) thought about you. A better description would be one with a bountiful amount of knowledge and some pride.


PS My site is on the hold till i figure my way through a typical US administration's policies.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 11:14:00 pm  
Anonymous ~autolycus said...

Jiesheng, what year did you graduate? 1997 is it? Oh dear, I've forgotten.

Meet Van and Becca, graduating 2007. *grin*

Friday, February 23, 2007 1:18:00 am  
Anonymous Jiesheng said...

2001 the best year (as most of us self proclaim)

Welcome young ACSians!

Friday, February 23, 2007 11:34:00 am  

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