Fear Not

If there is one message that has resonated throughout the ages, forming a base for the millions of other messages given to aid mankind in spiritual or evolutionary growth, it is this:  Fear not; do not be afraid.  It is quoted by spiritual leaders, philosophers and statesmen.   Fear is recognized in psychology as a precursor to anger and a host of other negative assumptions.  From Ghandi comes, “The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate, but, it is fear.”  Jesus of Nazareth, according to John, declared, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  From Lao Tzu and Buddha come, “There is no illusion greater than fear,” and, “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”  Thoreau claims, “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”  Mahmoud Mohammed Taha asserts, “The greatest obstacle to love is fear.” Franklin D. Roosevelt declares in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  For years, mankind has been exhorted to release, let go of fear, and for years, mankind has mostly ignored that.

We currently live in a kind of Alice in Wonderland world, and we are already down the rabbit hole.   It seems that anything can happen, and that reasons, arguments and common sense make no difference.  Events occur in rapid succession, without apparent order, and in complete disconnect with any former idea of order.  Emotions rule, and the bandwagon is king; not much quite makes sense.  This is the breeding ground for fear.  We do not know just what will happen, and we are unsure of how to respond.  What will happen to us?  Fear raises its head.

One example of this is the current coronavirus outbreak, which, according to authorities, may become a pandemic, and which has already sickened and killed many and devastated economies.  The messages in the media accentuate its threatening nature, sometimes suggesting ways in which we should be prepared.  Fear grows.  We either ignore it so we don’t have to feel it or devote energy to watching out for it and trying to prepare.  Theories of the origin of the coronavirus abound.   Officially, the outbreak originated in a Chinese meat market which was selling wild killed meats; the virus first affected the Chinese and grew to epidemic proportions.  Much of China is now on lockdown/isolation, and movement of people from China is under high restriction, with flights being canceled, mandatory quarantines and the like.  This official summary is well reported in the news, together with the further spread of the virus.   Other theories hold that the virus is manufactured.  One purports that the disease was created to be vaccinated against by vaccine manufacturing companies that already had a vaccine to sell in the pipeline.  “Buying” this explanation requires acceptance of cold-blooded murder as a prerequisite to such an action, but in an Alice in Wonderland world, anything can happen.   Another theory of manufacturing asserts that the virus was developed as biological warfare and escaped from a laboratory in China.  Accidental, but not very comforting.  Aside from theories of how the virus originated are the speculations on why the media continues to cover it in detail, emphasizing the doom and gloom.    Granted that the media often loves the emotionally negative in order to attract attention, there is a lot of fear generated.  What might be the result of the high dose of fear?  Might people then give up their civil rights in order to ask the government to protect them and give them security (one result of 9/11 as well)?  Whatever one thinks about it, the message is clear: be afraid, and let anger and paralysis result.

If we refuse to fear, much of the power that events, or governments or oligarchies have over us is eliminated.  That does not mean that we close our eyes and refuse to see, or that we neglect to prepare in the best way we possibly can, or that we distance ourselves from others.   It does mean that when we are seeing, preparing, and acting compassionately towards others, we are doing this not because we are afraid of what is, or of doing or being wrongly, but because what we do is the best, most loving thing we can do to build a healthier, kinder, more just world.  If that means seeing the undercurrents of what goes on, then it is not because we fear those undercurrents, but because the understanding is needed before we can lovingly act.  If we are preparing, it is not because we are afraid of what will happen if we do not, it is because we are in the process of creating a world that does not hold in forefront those things towards which our preparations are geared.   If we try to help others, it is not because we are bad people if we do not, it is because helping them is the most fearless, loving thing we can do.  We see and strive to learn more; we understand and try to grow in wisdom; we object to that which destroys life – human, animal, plant or planetary – not because we are afraid of being destroyed, but because we love that life in all its aspects.   We do not grovel or cower.  The intent is key; to act lovingly erases fear.

Granted, it can be difficult to overcome fear.  Fear has been with us for generations.  The saber-toothed-tiger of today is far more complex and amorphous than that physical threat our ancestors could run from or fight.  Nevertheless, our growth as people, even our survival, depends on our overcoming ingrained fear.  Fear responses, including secondary fear responses such as anger and cruelty and war, are no longer viable.   The healing will be a grassroots effort, the combination of many of us actively growing towards a greater courage and love.  It will not come from governments, from the top.  The top perhaps fears more than any of us, and has the hardest time letting go of fear.  It is time to hear the message of our prophets and pundits, philosophers, artists and statesmen – Fear not!   Do not be afraid!

May we each encourage others, give and receive support as we learn as quickly as we can to let go of our fear and to grow in the courage of love and its qualities.

Peace, Diane

An Age of Machines?

Several days ago, I made a stop at the post office to find out if I had put enough postage on the letters I was mailing for them to reach their destinations.  Most post offices now have machines that can tell the amount of postage a given item requires.   As I was making the stop on the way from one appointment to another, I thought I would be efficient and use the machine rather than stand in line for the attention of a clerk.  To my surprise, the machine had been re-programmed; instead of telling me what postage was due, the machine now insisted I buy a pre-printed label.  I did not want a pre-printed label.  I had one stamp on each letter already; I simply needed to know if that was enough.  At first, I thought I was doing something wrong with this postal computer.  I focused, concentrated and tried again, several times. No luck.  The machine still insisted I buy a pre-printed label.  Frustrated, I finally left the machine and stood in a rather long line to get the information I needed.

If I am to believe what I am told, machines (especially computers or computer-facilitated machines) have been invented for our convenience.  Self-service postal machines, self-checkouts in stores, pay-at-the-pump gasoline pumps – all are there so a customer can quickly do his or her business without having to talk with another human being.   I use these as little as possible, as I like talking with people, so I am not an expert.  Yet, it seems that, at least in the post office case, the machine was commanding me – making me do something in a way I did not wish to – instead of serving me.  I am wondering to what extent that which was designed to serve us has morphed – or is morphing – into what we serve.

I am also in the process of looking for a summer position to provide me with work for the summer.  Many of the openings that I find online, such as data entry operators, or website maintainers, or operators of accounting software (not to include actual computer repair people), require people whose function it is to supply computer programs with information needed to keep the computers running at the top efficiency required by their employers.  These programs, of course, operate by methods and rules designed into their software, and provide their end users with specific and limited types of information.  They are useful, and they do calculate faster and store information in a less bulky way than paper files.  However, to what extent are they serving people, and to what extent are people having to adapt to and serve them?   I do not have a clear answer, yet it seems to me that frequently those of us who interact with computers, especially at the entry levels, are being required to operate using machine methods of process, increasingly becoming a part of the machines, perhaps beginning to become ersatz machines ourselves.

A machine does not need to eat, sleep or take a break.  A machine functions at high speed.  A machine requires certain specific means of interaction, but it does not require emotional support, such as compassion or appreciation.   In today’s workplace, what is being required of many employees, particularly those at lower or entry levels (even middle management) is an ability to work in tandem with a computer.   A high degree of competence in interacting with the computer (a machine) in the manner required by the computer is mandatory.  Being able to work faster and faster with complete accuracy is important.  Being able to accomplish more and more, even when necessary to continue without a break, and the ability to tolerate repetitive tasks is preferred.   Unless one is supervised by a sensitive middle manager, appreciation, compassion, personal interaction with co-workers is discouraged.  And as for compensation, which is not required by a machine, many if not most of these machine-like jobs are paid close to minimum wage, barely enough to house, transport and hopefully feed oneself.  Machines, of course, do not have many needs.  It would seem that some of us at least are being required to become like machines as we interact with them.

Medical practice, too, is more and more being run by computers and sophisticated machines.   Conversation is now often by computer interface, and it would seem that the doctor who can diagnose without a computer is a dying breed. AI, another upcoming development, draws ever closer.  AI is expected to replace many kinds of jobs, and whether people can be trained to do other jobs (maintaining the AI computers/robots?) fast enough to keep employed is another question.  Yet another touted invention and one of my pet peeves is the self-driving (computer driven) car, in which the passenger is to simply sit and give instructions in a language the computer understands and be driven from one place to another. All of this is billed as marvelous progress, but I wonder.  Are we not losing precious aspects of our humanity to this progress?

Perhaps things are not as dire as I am describing, and it is just that I am observing only that part of what is happening.  I hope so.  We do need our technology and our progress.  But if people would pause for just a bit to question what we are losing for what we gain, we might be able to keep more of what is precious to us from the past and present and still make progress into the future.  We are not machines. Keeping on chugging, faster and faster, without reflection is not the answer.   We, the people, need to retain our privilege of thought and reflection, and to maintain enough control over what we have designed to serve us so that our human needs take priority, for all of us.  An Age of Machines is not only destructive towards humans, but also inimical to the planet and its denizens.

It is time to pause, to observe trends and patterns, and to understand more deeply where they are taking us.

Peace, Diane