Vaclav Havel was a playwright, poet, and artist who became the first president of the Czech Republic in 1992 after helping lead a successful revolution against the Communists. His involvement in politics was not the route that most men of his artistic persuasion would follow but his voracious reading in religion and the arts led him to action, not idle thought, or as pointed out recently in the Times Literary Supplement, “working for social and political improvement, not for glory, but to put his soul in order.” Havel had a hunger in the heart that led him into the ethereal, even the occult, but he also was grounded in reality and recognized that the lure of intellectual and spiritual escapism must not be allowed to capture him. He recognized that passion, that as Hamlet put it, “the native hue of resolution, sicklie’d o’er with the pale cast of thought…(would)…lose the name of action.” Or, to put it in New Testament words, “Faith without action is dead.” (This was from a book review of “Vaclav Havel” by Kieran Williams.)
Havel lived through social and political turmoil in his youth during the Communist Revolution when his comfortably ensconced family suffered loss of wealth and status making the young Havel “self-conscious about his social origin.” This “self-consciousness” produced what the book reviewer, Lesley Chamberlain, described as “productive friction” in his soul which simultaneously created or affirmed a belief in a soul and the insight that engagement in the human endeavor was an important part of “putting his soul in order.” This “productive friction” will not take place in anyone’s life without some unsettling experience at some point in life as otherwise one will just bumble along life’s way comfortably ensconced in one’s view of the world, like “kittens given their tail to tease,” as Goethe put it.
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I had a scary dream last night in which the communists were in an adjoining room…to my left (symbolizing the unconsciousness). I was horrified that they had “infiltrated” and aroused “penetration phobia” that was so frightening that I cried out in my sleep and my wife had to rouse me. This is clearly a dream that draws on fears from my early youth when the Communist menace was the “fear de jour” in my American culture. I listened to horrifying sermons lamenting the “Communist menace” and warnings that even a next door neighbor might be part of a “sleeper cell.” And, yes, this fear was augmented by warnings that those “damn liberals” (‘dang liberals’, back then) were seeking to destroy our faith and facilitate the onslaught of “Godless communism.”
This culture of fear shaped my life and this dream reflects that the fear core in my heart has not yet by been eased by the promise of Jesus that “perfect love casteth out fear.” Fear is an elemental dimension of life, an expression of our realization on some primitive level of just our vulnerable we are. But instead recognizing and confronting the fear-base that drives us it is so much easier to see the embodiment of our fear “out there” in some person or group of persons. This blindness to our unconsciousness succeeds in helping us avoid our fears but the price tag is that our judgment is horribly impaired. Oh, sure, Communism was antithetical to our American way of life but now in hindsight historians tell us that the “threat” was gravely exaggerated, costing billions of dollars and untold loss of life.
So, what am I afraid of? I don’t know for sure what it is but it will be some expression of vulnerability…perhaps even the grim reaper himself! But if I keep listening to my dreams, having curiosity about life, and paying attention I will eventually have some inkling of what it is. And whatever “it” is, once resolved there will be another fear to take its place which will tyrannize me less as I continue to discover that these fears are alleviated when I have the courage to face them boldly.