a) A movie genre?

b) An instinctual reaction to a perceived threat?

c) A basis for political power?

d) The reason for religion?

e) all of the above.

“The only thing to fear,” the wise man said to the terrified populace, “is fear itself.” Indeed? Well, lets look and see what we can see.

When I was a small child, I knew fear as the monster (I just knew for sure) was hiding under my bed, and it would come out in the dark…I never stayed awake long enough to see what would happen if and when it did. But that early fear was like a pressure on my chest. It stole my voice, choked my breathing to a merest trickle. I wanted to escape but the fear held me to that spot. I don’t know if I passed out or fell asleep, but I woke up over and over again without any telltale marks of a monster-attack: all my fingers and toes were still attached, and the Sun was up. I had survived another treacherous night.

Over the years, I gradually lost faith in the monster under the bed. And anyway, I had other things to fear: spiders in dark corners, young men, failing grades, mean teachers, mean kids, mean streets, old men, getting caught smoking, dark alleys, not getting into college, bikers, drunks, gangs, getting pregnant, my brother, the Russians, getting caught cutting class, middle aged men, my father, pimples, boys…well you get the idea. With so many tangible immediate sources of fear, I didn’t need to look under the bed. Sometimes I wanted to hide under it. In fact when we were really little and could still sit upright under the bed, sis and I used to hide under there when our father came home from work. With good reason. The monster under the bed had nothing on you, Dad. You were way scarier.

Not to mention fear of getting fired, getting mugged or raped, getting killed in an accident, or by an angry maniac, or in the crossfire. Wait a minute, with so much that is fearful in life, how is fear a problem? Maybe fearful is our natural state, appropriately so, and not a problem at all?

We’ve spent the past half a millennium minimizing the threats in our environment and lengthening our lives, but we seem pretty fearful in spite of good housing, plumbing, hygiene, nutrition, medical care.

When all else fails, there’s always death. The good old fear of death, and it can kill you. My husband doesn’t need it. He manufactures things to fear, then worries about them.

I think people like fear. It’s a wake-up call. It’s better than coffee. When you’re afraid you really know you’re alive. And yes, being human some of us become addicted to it. I had a man on supervision who exposed himself to school kids. He was addicted to their fear. He got off on the fear in their eyes. The day he realized that, the community became instantly safer. He was horrified at what he was becoming. I was too.

Fear: ally or enemy? All depends. Yet, it is clear from the billions we spend on medications and medical practitioners, and a panoply of faith healers and assorted magicians and seers as well as honest to goodness healers…that we don’t like being afraid.

What if…

We accept that every individual life is short, while Life itself seems determined never to end.

We take responsibility for creating the world we complain ceaselessly about.

We step away from the “victim stance” and just like that we are walking on air. Talk about putting down an odorous burden. Whew!

We stop making up stories about who we are and why we’re here. We admit we have no clue.

If we run short of anything, we assign a think tank, not an armored tank.

We stop fighting because we can do better than that. That is why we evolved this far.

Roll over Beethoven!

We, the “royal we” or humanity, need to stop trying to “be” right, to get “it” right or to “be good” as opposed to being “wrong” and “bad.”

Perhaps it would help to remember that good and bad and right and wrong are human concepts. In other words, we made it all up. What we refer to as “Mother Nature” makes no such distinctions. This was the dilemma among the old religions: the gods were capricious, indifferent to human suffering and selfish, among other things. Mother Nature just won’t behave in a sufficiently moral manner.

You can imagine their distress. We turned our attention to the sky. Beyond the old sky gods with their vicious thunderbolts and capricious weather, yes the “one” real god must be out there somewhere: a moral god, a caring god. And a new explanation for all these difficulties … the devil, the opposite of the loving god.

Well, that hasn’t held up to more mature scrutiny, so what’s next? How shall we solve the problems of suffering and death?

We continue to view death as the opposite of life, like god is the opposite of the devil, light-dark, etc and ad nauseum.

Forgive my impatient grumbling. I feel like a mother trying to get the kids up for school. When I was a teen, nothing short of a cold wet rag could jar me from my slumber. But I digress.

The great spiritual teachers all point beyond duality, beyond right and wrong, beyond the duality paradigm.They point to a unifying principle, claim it’s intelligent or as Eckhart Tolle calls it, “consciousness itself.” Thus God continues to evolve.

Consciousness seems to offer a unifying thread. God, or consciousness, we are now told in spiritual circles is indwelling in all of creation. We feel partial to living and sentient life, that being where we currently find ourselves. But it’s a start.

Still we are ever seeking rescue and relief from suffering and death. And we also feel we deserve an explanation.

What we forget is that we created the problem in the first place.

If we created the problem, perhaps we can stop seeking a savior outside of ourselves. We created it. Let’s fix it.

Carl Jung taught about the need to embrace our dark side. Embrace that?! Never, we say. We are created in god’s image and we are supposed to be good. Resist evil, repent, manage ourselves … wait! Manage the good and resist the evil.

We’re so stuck.

Okay, try this instead: whenever a so-called negative or bad thought or a fearful or angry emotion arises…and they are always arising…just let that energy and those thoughts come as they will. Try to relax and just watch them. Don’t judge, analyze, resist or change them. Take whatever time you need to let these thoughts and feelings arise, allow yourself to experience your thoughts and feelings. This is “off the record” and I’m not wearing a wire.

Watch. Don’t engage, don’t make decisions, do not take action related to the upset. Make tea. Listen to music, go for a walk, watch a Charles Bronson movie, run, walk, talk, cry. Watch.

When the emotions and mental energy subside, as they always do, remember you are not only a member of the animal kingdom on planet Earth. You are also a spiritual being. As such, you have an unlimited capacity to engage in productive ways with whatever circumstances may arise. Allow this aspect to decide what you will do.

Denial hasn’t worked.

Find the love between us. That is a good place to start.

We Interrupt This Program…


Spokanites do not believe me when I say that interrupting is not considered rude in New York.  Certain interrupting is rude and other interrupting falls into the category of “histrionics,” which is not only not rude, it’s entertaining, and displays passion for whatever is being discussed.

It’s expected really. It’s what I’m used to and comfortable with. I wonder how many other transplanted New Yorkers like myself really do miss those unruly but passionate exchanges that are common where we are from.

So, here I am denied an entertaining discussion in favor of an orderly one, required to behave in a manner that is not natural for me, having been outvoted on the acceptability of emotionally charged outbursts.  Done.

New York has never had the corner on gentility. Quite the opposite. I humbly yield with the caveat that I be granted a period of time to learn and practice the local customs. Writing it down rather than jumping in does not occur to me, and if I adopt this practice, it will cause me to miss what is being said, temporarily.

But I accept that when in the Northwest you do as the Northwesterners do. If you want to hang with them. 

Okay, I’m in.  Support and encouragement rather than gotcha’s and judgment would sweeten the experience. Barring positive support, a measure of restraint perhaps? Try not to get red in the face, or roll your eyes, or…well you know what you do.  Really you guys have got to stop being so right. It’s very poor form. 

So while I’m willing to modify my behavior, I am not willing to get beat up about it.  Is that fair enough to create the possibility of conversation between us?

For your part, perhaps you could say, “Let me finish?” instead of being offended?

Just putting it out there.