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

HallOwEEn

HallOwEEn

It has been said that Halloween is a celebration of our fears.  Perhaps it is not wholly that, but certainly that is an aspect.  Fear was a part of the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain, occurring at the cross-quarter between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, the same time as we celebrate Halloween.  Partly a harvest celebration, Samhain also included the belief that at this time the division between the spirit world and the world of the physically living was weakened.  Through the thinned veil, spirits of the dead and spirits of non-human origin (e.g., fairies) could enter.  Although some of those spirits might be benign, others were feared for hostile or mischievous intentions.  Two of the customs surrounding this belief were the wearing of costumes so as to not be recognized by the spirits and the burning of candles to scare them away.  Later in the period, turnips were hollowed out, carved, and a burning coal was put inside so that the light could be carried with a traveler.  This is the forerunner of our jack-o-lanterns.

During the second half of the cross-quarter, the period of darkness is lengthening, and the growing season concludes.  The cold season of winter is approaching, during which survival depends upon the harvest and what can be preserved from it.  The waning light and approaching cold were taken seriously, and an abundant harvest was thankfully welcomed. We have moved the harvest celebration to Thanksgiving, but some of the ancient Samhain customs certainly sound familiar.   Another change is that we no longer call the celebration Samhain.  The early Church in Britain attempted to negate the Druidic and pagan origins by taking the dates of Samhain (Oct 31-November 1) and changing the celebration on November 1 to All Saints Day, honoring the ascended Christian dead.  The evening before (Oct.31) was re-named All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.

The twin themes of celebration and fear remain with us in modern times. For most children, the occasion is eagerly anticipated.  Children dress in costume not to hide from spirits, but to appear frightening or spooky themselves, or for recognition of their creativity.  (In Mexico, the spirits of one’s honored ancestors are recognized, and masks and costumes to that effect are made.)   Households stock up on treats to be distributed, and children in their disguises traipse happily from door to door demanding treats.

So where is the fear?  Children may try to be scary, and adults may fear retribution (mostly from adolescent tricksters) if suitable treats (mostly candy) are not provided.  Horror movies prevail on TV but are certainly not shunned by most audiences.  We seem to be no longer truly frightened by influences from “the other side”, or even apprehensive about tricks played on Halloween.  Could it be that our fears have settled inside us?

Now, as the days shorten and the warm, energetic season of summer yields to approaching winter, it is a good time to look at what we fear.  Each of us has personal fears, some more visible than others.    Many of our fears are those of inadequacy in some form; some are nightmares of abuse or assault; others are terrors of the dark, closed spaces, the vastness of open areas, or heights.  Fears may also be outer-oriented, such as fears of war, political oppression, climate change, earthquakes or other natural disasters.   Whatever it is, each of us has something to which to attach our fear.  I postulate that this multitude of fears has a single origin – the fear of death as defined by massive personal loss and the extinction of our identity.

Halloween is a good time to explore our fears and discover either their ephemeral nature or their reality as events that can be dealt with.  Nature designed winter as a time of rest, reflection and renewal.  What better place to start?

We need to look at what the children have done with Halloween.  What was once fearsome and spooky is now an eagerly anticipated time of joy.  We, too, can face our fears and doubts, recognize and confront them, and turn them into pointers towards joy.

Happy Halloween! 

Peace, Diane