I did a quick interview the other week with Chris Garrett, which he posted here.
The comments got me thinking. The people who read Chris Garrett’s blog are not our tribe, they’re a different kind of people. Seekers maybe. Maybe more pro-blogger types. Either I didn’t express myself properly, or my message is not what I want it to be to the outside world.
The statement which was the most repeated was “fear is not pointless.” Of course it isn’t– it is a real phenomenon that needs to be thought about. You and I know that fear isn’t stupid, but it doesn’t stop us from being anxious even though it might not make sense to feel it.
Let’s be honest here. We live in the lap of luxury. Our world is safer than it’s ever been, even with the false specter of terrorism, and the somewhat distant threat of global warming, in our vicinity. The things we’re anxious about have more to do with what our boss will say on his yearly report than anything really risky.
This sort of anxiety, the kind we feel everyday about going to a party where we don’t know anyone, or about quitting the job we hate– this fear isn’t real the way that being chased by a bear is real. It’s imaginary. It’s an illusion. If you’ve quit a job before, or you’ve walked into a few parties, you know this. You realize the core of it: in almost all circumstances where we feel anxious, we’re actually going to be totally fine.
This is why we need to not give into this kind of anxiety. It’s clear that it isn’t comfortable, but if we don’t get past it, we’ll feel it next time, and the time after that. Next thing we know, we’ll be like Pavlov’s dogs and be afraid to even step next to the thing that we’re afraid of. We’ll get even more distant than we were, because we’ll try to avoid the feeling itself. This is automatic. It’ll happen even if we don’t think about it.
The alternative– the “safe” alternative in the sense that it understands the illusory nature of much of these threats, is to move through the fear like a waterfall, get a bit cold in the process, and emerge at the other side. Doing this as often as possible means that we’ll understand the nature of these emotions and be able to assess them realistically instead of jumping to conclusions. We realize we’ll be able to handle it because we’ve been through it before.
This is the “risky” path. It feels risky, and it is different than what most people do. But it isn’t stupid. It doesn’t say “ignore all fear. Jump off the cliff, fuck it.” Instead, it helps you come to grips with what really happens when you do this, and learn from it instead of taking it on faith.
We, as seekers, do not take the stupid path. We do take the risky path. There is a huge difference– one is insane. The other is logical and extremely sane. We know this, and because we do, we carry on.