Topic 6 – Shiver Me Timbers
Fear is not a flaw in our human make-up. It is not a weakness. Rather it is the result of being an inhabitant of planet earth with a worldview that insures a deep and expansive sense of disconnection. Of all the creatures on the face of the earth, we are the ones who can relate to the notion of: a leaf in the wind. We try desperately to understand a world that seemingly attacks us uncalled for, with disease, catastrophe, war, starvation, to name a few. We continually find ourselves asking: Why me? Why this? Why now? We create religions to alleviate our fears, but to little or no avail. From our low-grade worry to mild concern to panic disorders and utter terror, we move from birth to death afraid. Do you notice any other form of life living like this? There are none, for all other life abides in a worldview of interconnectedness. They belong; we pine for membership. Our worldview may allow us to clump up and make groups, but it does not allow us the ease that accompanies those creatures who do not have to maintain a sense of self as apart from all else.
I have spent many years coming to understand fear. I had studied metaphysics and various spiritual philosophies, but always kept the safe distance of a student. Then that changed one day and fear came to own me for many years. So what I share about fear resulted from experiential learning not from reading the words of others in a book. People who knew me prior, would have described me as bold, adventuresome, a risk-taker, and brave, and still fear had its way with me. My only way out was to come to understand fear, its source, its maintenance, and its fatal flaw. So when I say that we are all infested with fear, deny it to others if you want, but not to me, for I know fear by all its names and recognize its every face. As the protagonist says in my novel Dying to Know: “It [Fear] was death in beggar’s clothing, shutting down life bit by bit, without hope of esteem or accomplishment to ennoble its end.”
You don’t see fear in the natural world. You can see primal instinct in response to life-threatening situations, but not fear. Fear is a mental creation. Nowhere in the natural world do you see creatures ground down, filled with tension, unable to sleep, joyless or fretful (unless they are ones we’ve domesticated). Only we live like this, for our worldview cuts us off from our natural intuitive instincts and isolates us to a degree unknown to the natural world. Our worldview offers a life beset with fear. What else would explain a constant need to war against one another? What else would account for racism or our suspicious nature around differences? What else could explain our lack of tolerance or our discomfort with vulnerability?
Once while working as a corporate consultant, I had a discussion about fear with a friend who was a leading consultant in Vancouver at that time. He became incensed when I suggested that he too lived in fear. “I’m not afraid,” he scoffed. “I was a Navy Seal during the war. I saw all manner of things and stayed the course.”
“I understand,” I said, “but minutes ago we were having this discussion about one of your greatest dreams, and just as we got to the why of it, the most intimate part, you changed the topic. What was your motivation for that?”
“Oh that,” he responded. “That’s fear?”
“What would you call it,” I replied.
He thought for a moment and to his credit answered, “I see what you mean. I never realized that was fear.”
We accept our level of fear just as we accept our level of bodily tension because we have no real recourse. Our only way out as we see it is generally pharmaceutical. Our worldview, in a sense, relies on fear for its maintenance. For fear is very attention grabbing, and our attention, if prised away from fear, can be our key to freedom. That remains for another topic we’ll get to later, but hold that thought if you will.
Until next time, see how brave you can be by identifying some fear that limits your experience of life, and note the price you pay for it. Observe how you find yourself actually defending it, rather than seeing into it and coming to learn what it is about. The only upside of fear is its capacity to motivate you to get the hell out, to allow you to consider that there is another way. We defeat fear only by coming to see how it has no basis in fact, but to see this accurately requires an intent not nurtured by our worldview. I knew years ago that I would never have money sufficient to free me from my fear of lack, never stop being afraid of what disease might get me next, nor stop fearing old age and death. I knew I had to come out the other side with a new worldview, for life lived from fear is life left unlived. We are so much more than that, magical beings with infinite possibilities. Perhaps it’s time to look at bit more deeply at how this happened to us, how we lost our way, so alienated ourselves from our true nature as to have come to believe so completely this view of life we now have. Next week in Topic 7 – The Tower of Babel, we’ll call on an old story to help us.