On Fear (Part 1 of 4)
Or how Love and Fear are actually two sides of the same coin
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Every night at midnight, they shut off the generators here to save diesel. So every night at midnight, I sit on my balcony as the entire resort goes dark. I feel the warm sea-breeze and I listen to the crashing waves. I look up at the stars and I marvel at how the moon casts moving shadows on the blueish-white sand in the shape of passing clouds and waving palm trees.
I also watch as the half-dozen security guards patrol the grounds below me, interrupting the otherwise-serene scenery with their artificial-yellow flashlights, squawking walkie-talkies, and crackling tasers. I think about the myriad of potentialities that those security guards are guarding against and let Fear run amok in my imagination. I peer into the darkest of dark patches where the moon doesn’t shine through at all and I remember that quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit:
"We like the dark," said all the dwarves. "Dark for dark business! There are many hours before dawn.”
But then I catch myself, realizing that this broken record of anxious thought isn’t helpful. I instead think of the quote by comedic-philosopher Bill Hicks:
It’s just a choice, right now, between Fear and Love. The eyes of Fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of Love instead see all of us as one.
Even though Bill shared this Truth almost thirty years ago (just a couple years before his death from pancreatic cancer at age 32 — a year younger than me) I’m sure that if he could amend his quote today, he would likely put something in there about hoarding toilet paper.
We do very strange things when we act out of Fear.
Saturday, I was offered a ride up to Cancún to go to Costco. My eyes got wide at the mere mention of that name. I didn’t know there were any Costco’s in Mexico. And of course, Costco is synonymous with stocking up in bulk, which, at the moment, has the tantalizing promise of giving me the illusion of control over the future — that stability and consistently that I crave.
I was very, very, very tempted to go. But in the end, I didn’t, and here’s why:
When I am trying to make a decision, instead of a two-column “Pros vs. Cons" list, I make a quadrant with "Fear vs. Love" on one axis and “Do the Thing” vs. “Don’t Do the Thing” on the other. In a normal “Pros vs. Cons” list, you are measuring the outcomes of a decision; by adding in “Fear vs. Love”, you are measuring your motivations for making that decision.
Here was my quadrant for the choice today:
I kept flip-flopping back-and-forth. And then it hit me: this was a War of Fears; there were no Love-based motivations for going. I was scared to go, and I was scared to stay. And in a War of Fears, there is no winning — you lose as soon as you remove Love from the equation.
Fear and Love are like Yin and Yang. They are non-dualistic. They seem like they are opposites, but just like black and white, you can’t have one without the other — they are two sides of the same coin. Each decision that I make out of either Love or Fear is a building block in my day, and each day is a building block in my life. If I consistently chose Fear over Love, my life would look a lot different than it does today.
It’s not that Fear doesn’t raise valid concerns. It’s just that I need to be aware of how much control I’m giving Fear in my life. Fear is a useful servant but a terrible master. So while I try to listen to what Fear has to say, I don’t let it decide for me.
Because moment after moment, “it’s just a choice, right now, between Fear and Love.”