Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Visions from The Fearlesship 2012
by R. Michael Fisher - Sunday, April 1, 2012, 02:50 PM

I have a couple recent visions (in planning) to share. To introduce this all I'll cite the first sentence from my doctoral dissertation (2003) Abstract:

"There are many types of leaders and leadership but rare is it to find leaders operating from a fearless standpoint, like that of the sacred warrior traditions, where the very construct of 'fear' is seen as the 'first enemy' and is thoroughly critiqued. If we are living in a 'Fear' Matrix where 'fear' rules and shapes our personalities, organizations, leadership and pedagogy, then a new kind of leadership in education is required--especially in a post-September 11th context ... 'culture of fear' and violence (terrorism)." (p. ii)

I then start writing about my experience of bringing the popular sci-fi movie of 1999, The Matrix (by the Wachowski Bros.) forward as a guiding inspiration and image for this quest for a new eduacational leadership in the 21st century. What I didn't write in the dissertation, was that around 2001 (after 9/11), I put up a big hand painted sign on my office in the apartment of the housing co-op I living in (Eastside Vancouver, BC) which said: "WELCOME TO THE FEARLESSHIP." And in that room I wrote my dissertation, and welcomed my family members in the home and anyone visiting our apartment to discuss what the "fearlesship" is, might be, and/or ought to be. I had a meeting with my family members (Barbara, Leah, Vanessa) at that time and explained as best I could that I wasn't going crazy, I wasn't starting a new cult-like role-playing game, nor creating a movie myself, rather I was dead serious and playful, that a new platform or framework for living (yes, let's start with our home environment) was required after 9/11. The rest is history, I'll tell you if you ask me.

The new concept of "fearlesship" hasn't appeared a lot in my writing, as it comes and goes. Today it is coming back, as I sit here in my office in our rented house in Carbondale, IL. I began thinking where such an image would come from, other than the intellectual play off of "leadership" with a new twist that is more "fearless." I obviously was concerned about how everything had changed after 9/11 and a new leadership style or form, something, was needed, because what I read and heard from leaders, of all kinds (especially in Education) was pretty pathetic in regard to how they responded to this act of terrorism on US soil. The message, the patterns of reactions, all were sad and I thought quite incompetent to even frame what had happened and how best to manage it. The US elite leaders, especially in government (but backed and pushed by corporate leaders) went "nutso" if you ask me. The rest is history.

I was searching for leadership beyond "excellence" slogandia that the corporate sector was putting out in the 1980s, and that school-based and higher education were taking on in their organizations and policies in the decade to follow. I found that all quite insufficient and "fearlessness" was my own addition in 1989 to that rhetoric of In Search of Excellence (e.g., Tom Peters et al.) and I was putting out a vision for In Search of Fearlessness, which I led an organization in Calgary, AB for 8 years until it "sank."

But today I am reflecting on where the imaginary for all this came from, including fearlesship as one of the latest morphs? Ah, maybe it was all those years (1960s, early 1970s) when I sat with my tv dinner in front of the tv screen and watched faithfully the situation family comedy Gilligan's Island. As an impressionable youth, adolescent, I loved the pretty women in the show, no doubt, very sexy but also loved the nature, stranded on the island scenarios and their survivalism (kind of a forerunner to "Survivor" real tv that came decades later which I didn't watch). I looked up the words to the intro and ending song for Gilligan's Island because it was entrancing and I heard it some many hundreds of times, it is still in my head with the catchy rhythm. The words (excerpt below) are quite telling, don't you think for this post and my weird career: "The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost. The Minnow would be lost" (1964 copyright, Schwartz & Wyle, Warner Bros.). "Fearless crew"... wow! I guess I wanted to be on that ship and be part of a fearless crew, the thrill and adventure, the heroism and (of course) the girls. That's my teenager spirit in a nutshell, I suppose, not to forget to mention that in 1967 I was rather rebellious in grade 8 because my hair was too long for the school principal and teachers (and the society at the time in Calgary), that I was booted out of school for 3 days, with my buddies who also had long-hair and played in our rock band.

There is possibly another fearlesship imagery (if not unconsciously) that was working in the world specifically in that an assault landing ship was built in 1963 in Ireland for the British Royal Navy, called the HMS- Fearless. It was a new lighter, faster, more flexible assault ship that became a class of ships to follow. I recall in my dissertation research (or maybe it was years later, I can't recall) that the "Fearless" (see picture below) caught my attention on a Google search and I read it had quite a history. Briefly, in 1968, most poignant to my thinking right now, was it was used to have some highly-confidential international leaders meetings aboard it while on the sea. That sounds so exciting. Apparently the prime minister of Britain and Rhodesia had a meeting there on some important events of a political, economic and military concern to the world. Who knows who else met there for why? It intrigues me as an image, imaginary and idea. I'm thinking of a new kind of morph-class-genre of "fearlesship" where highly important leaders would meet. Now-a-days, that fearlesship could be a virtual one, like on the internet? Hmmm... that's got me thinking... envisioning...


HMS Fearless

Some "Fearless" Visions in 2012

This past week I am thinking of all the international people I've been meeting online, for all kinds of different reasons, and some of them whom I admire as leaders-educators, and this goes back for years with some of them. I thought of seven and listed them in my journal today. Wow, I thought, we could have a 'think tank' meeting, all seven of us. And that was the start to thinking of the framework, platform, and leadership container that I would want for that meeting or meetings to analyze and help solve global problems and crises. How could we all put our intelligences together from around the world (not a new idea), but do it in a different kind of container, a fearlesship. That's very exciting to me. That's rad. And it could be done. Just like I put up the sign on my office door "The Fearlesship" in 2001. Yes! Be prepared, you may get a 'call' on this one.

I also have been writing a long (70 pp) paper review of the literature on the concept of "the Fear Matrix." It is an intriguing concept and name to me, and always has been since I started using it in 2000-01. It got into my dissertation title, for example. I am comparing in this paper, for later publication (maybe a book) so to both synthesize what has been said about this from all kinds of authors, teachers, gurus, and so on and to critique it fairly in an integral approach. Of course, I'd compare my own conceptualization and publications with theirs. It would be a first for any researcher to do this. And it would be very informative to curious souls wanting to know more about this concept (and reality). Okay, that got me thinking the other day how I'd like to finish a draft of this paper and then send it to many of the people I cite in the paper so they can respond and/or at least know I am doing this as a project of CSIIE (DIFS). Then, who knows what kind of synergy that could create, or enemies? Hmmm.. then I envisioned CSIIE (DIFS) sponsoring a world conference on this topic "The Fear Matrix" every two years or so, somewhere in the world, and again, maybe on the fearlesship or on CSIIE's website as a short "course" or "seminar" event of some kind. Limitless possibilities, and wow, would I like to hear those voices (intelligences) get together for the first time, and have a conversation. That's awesome in my mind. Let's do it! You could be hearing form me on that one.

Lastly, but not leastly, I had this idea of a core practice for CSIIE as an organization, or at least, it could be a core practice if people chose it, but it was a signature program we created and presented (as a "trainings"). It would allow people to rant. That's where this idea started, and then after conversations with Treesong and Hugh the idea is growing, but basically still the same 'seed idea.' I'll be sharing more about this core praxis we can offer to the world (really, why not?)... we want it to be a critical integral (and potentially healing and transformative) action practice, that is very simple and actionable with no cost to participants but a willingness to try it. We're thinking of something weekly like for 2 hrs. at CSIIE office... anyways, I'll keep ya posted...

I have a last comment, as I have also been working on some CSIIE "higher education" promotional posters and images, and there was this conversation I had with Treesong briefly about how radical to make the CSIIE poster advertisement. I wanted something radical but not too off-putting, and Treesong thought I could even shift the message more, so that we truly make it clear on the poster we want to work with SIUC or other universities and institutions in the mainstream. Okay, from an integral perspective that's very true, we do. So, maybe we don't use the word "alternative" to the higher education systems available out there. And this was the same issue that the radical holistic practitioners had to deal with (and still do) decades ago, to decide if they were "alternative" or were "complementary" (e.g., complementary medicine). It all of course had issues to do with politics and don't forget with economics of these practitioners on both sides of the fence... and it had to do with potential legal costs and law suits. It also is a type of cultural appropriation, and that's a slippery slope to oppression. I won't go into all that but to say, CSIIE as an integral organization is still searching for the term, and maybe there are many terms and many ways we will work with and against the mainstream, I don't know. There are days, somedays, when my rebellious long-haired part (without the hair mind you, as I'm bald pretty much at 60 yrs old) arises and would like to just say "hey, we at CSIIE are doing "counter-education")... have you heard of that? Yeah, it is a concept devised by a radical academic in Education in Israel, by Ilan Gur-Ze'ev at Haifa University. This professor and fascinating character (we've had a few emails exchanged over the years) has a notion that even "critical pedagogy" is not enough, or radical enough for dealing with the world today, and he argues for "a non-repressive pedagogy" as "counter-education to hegemonic educaction and to oppose the dogmas and illusions of the hegemonic versions of Critical Pedagogy" (p. 463). I want to re-look at Ilan's work, and I suggest the CSIIE faculty do the same over the next year and months, as we search for our own identity and integral way to have an impact on Education. I'd like Ilan, in my dreams, to be with us on the Fearlesship when it happens... (smile).... until later my brothers and sisters... If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow [CSIIE] would be lost.



Fisher, R. M. (2003). Fearless leadership in and out of the 'Fear' Matrix. Unpublished dissertation. Vancouver, BC: The University of British Columbia.

Gur-Ze-ev, I. (1998). Toward a non-repressive Critical Pedagogy. Educational Theory, 48(4), 463-86.