Rose symbol for b:overconfidentb: overconfident             
Rose symbol for b:braveb: brave, confident
Rose symbol forb: doubt b: timid, fearful, shy

Etymology: The origin of this symbol and spectrum

At first, when I was homeless, I wanted someone to share my fears with, to know that it is ok to be frightened at night when you have no place to sleep, when you are not sure who will come out of the shadows. So this symbol became a gesture between Rose and me—I could tell Rose when I was scared, and just the act of writing this down and seeing it in coded black and white made me feel better.

Then, I wanted a symbol that could reassure me. I could be bold. I could go out and go to Japan, where I knew no one, and live for three years. I could just hop a Russian Aeroflot plane from Bangkok to Poland. I could celebrate, as a tourist , with the locals when the Berlin Wall was being torn down.

Eventually, after a few… shall we say… overbold? Nay, stupid? moves on my part (one of which landed me in a car with a Yakuza member in Japan—with the doors locked—we did escape, don’t worry)… I wanted a symbol to remind me that even bravery should be tempered with common sense.

Orthography: How to remember these symbols

The “b” for fear is drawn by circling inward, which traces your fears through a maze to your very soul (or like vultures circling in). But then, when you reach the center, you make a straight line down and out of the circles of fear—knowing that it is ok to fear, but there is a way out. Note that this circle for the “b” is echoed in the spirals of the “r” for good and bad memories. This echoes the idea that fear, like memory, circles around, ever drawing closer to the heart of the matter.

The “b” for bold is like a ram’s head—it is two eyes squarely facing the world.

The “b” for overbold is just the “b” for bold gone amuck. You can vary this “b” to show how far overconfident and foolhardy you think the matter is—just stick in a few more of those eyes.

Philosophy: How I use these symbols to embrace life

You can not go through life without some fear and trepidation—for that would be like the overconfident bold. Yet, at the same time, you can not simply exist in the circle of fear, either. Often when I draw this, I draw it slowly, acknowledging each of my fears, my worries, my anxieties, as they get closer and closer to the center. Then I draw my “escape route,” my straight line and think about ways to cross over my fears.

When I want to be brave about something, or when I am just a bit afraid, and I want to encourage myself, I usually draw this in a meditation, thinking that first one eye confronts the matter, then the other eye joins it in a strong position. With both eyes open, I can take a deep breath and find my courage.

If I think someone is being over-brave—ok ok, usually, it’s me just about to step into the Grand Canyon without a rope—I try to caution myself. If I find myself doodling more and more and more of the “b” brave eyes than the lines can handle, I take a step back. Is this overly ambitious? Can we do it in stages? Is this absolutely a stupid thing to do—even though it seems like a good idea right now? Maybe I should rethink my strategy . . .