As a child we would taunt each other with, “You’re a scaredy-cat, you’re a scaredy-cat” in an effort to goad a friend…or someone we didn’t like…into doing something risky. And of course, that would produce the expected exchange, “No I’m not, you are!” on and on for a few minutes until laughter broke out or someone had submitted and done something stupid.
Well, I was a scaredy-cat, being a little too timid…and I still am in the depths of my heart. That fear base which terrorized me in my youth is still there, murmuring to me quite often, though now maturity has given me some balance so that these taunts from my reptilian-brain fear base do not have the power they used to. For example, this morning I read a news story about an antibiotic-proof strain of virus that is now in our country and first thought, “Oh no, here comes the hysteria! Here comes the fear-mongerers crawling out from underneath their rocks to announce national and even global catastrophe!” And, true enough, this is a serious event and, true enough, things could get out of hand. And the “scaredy-cat” did stir for a moment in my heart and I felt that fear-base taunting me on multiple issues. But on this occasion I employed a newly found maturity to be able to “name the demon”…so to speak…to put words to the subjective experience that was having and not allow fears to predominate. The fear was there but I was able to employ “the pauser reason” and not imbibe of the hysteria that media is always trying to create.
Life is inherently tenuous. At the moment when we are born, and certainly at the moment when we come “on line” as a conscious being, our little ego is fragile and desperately needs that “fig leaf” that God so graciously gives us to hide us from our nakedness. T. S. Eliot described that moment of vulnerability as “That tender point from which life arose, that sweet force born of inner throes.” The “fig leaf” of ego structure is a necessary part of life and allows us to “join the human race” by acquiring a persona and taking our place in the tribe. But ideally when we reach middle age…and certainly old age…we will achieve maturity enough to open up a bit, broaden our view and experience of the world, which always means encountering that subterranean fear-base to some degree. Most of us get this piece-meal and only have to deal with some degree of internal duress—maybe anxiety or depression. Some are not so fortunate and are overwhelmed and crash and burn, the filter provided by their ego structure proving to be incapable of handling the turmoil of unconscious energy. Many simply go through a mid-life crisis, then “gird up their loins” and get back into the trenches and resume their life. Others have to endure the “Dark Night of the Soul” that St. John of the Cross wrote about. And then many others have an ego that resists fear feverishly, and they cling desperately to their persona. And these “darkened” and “unlightened” souls have a very important place in the unfolding of our world also and rarely do any of them merit the description of “darkened” or “unenlightened.” (But oh how delightful it is to be able to make that judgment!!! The ego just loves the power of drawing distinctions and casting someone into “outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”)
Actually, what I’m now trying to say is, wording it facetiously, “I fear that I have found courage.” And I have found that courage does not mean the absence of fear but having the wherewithal to persevere even in the midst of fear, of doubt and insecurity. I credit this to something which happened about two and a half years ago as a result of having read Stephen Levine’s book, “Healing into Life and Death.” Levine taught that “healing” occurred when one embraced his fears, “stepped into” them, rather than running away from them. In his book he was talking about helping people who were facing terminal illness and reported that the “healing” often meant coming to acceptance of death and being able to die peacefully. But he also reported that with many others when they embraced their terminal illness and accepted the finality of death, they were healed of their illness. Two and a half years ago I stopped running from fears and insecurities, began to embrace them, and am discovering the wisdom in the mantra, “This too shall pass.” But when we run from “stuff” it we only perpetuate it and allow it to continue thwarting the unfolding of our life. The culture of my youth taught me to run from “stuff” rather than deal with it. Even my Christian faith imbibed of this avoidance principal, using the teachings of Jesus to avoid reality rather than to embrace it.