This post is prompted by Saturday's homily.
Yes, fear is a gift; and yes, "we have nothing to fear but fear ittrself."
When i take a mnute to think about it, i have been frightened of many things: new experiences, horror movies, bullies, exposure as a fraud, the Japanese air force, a cow, people in general, Americans in particlular, The United States government, its economic sytem, responsibility, hell, and authority.
I hardly know whether fear is a blessing or a curse in any specufuc incident. But even if i consider fear as panic, i i rarely let it consume me or cause me to behave irrationally. Those rare occazsionns my encounter with the cow at age four and the break up of my marriage at age 25. After age 25. i had many occasions wih many apparent causes, After age 50, my fears subsided and life became much more enjoyed.
It occures to me that i should mention awe. I always thought it strange that awe is supposed to contain an element of fear.. Authority, genius, and might do often inspire fear in me, but there is no reverence, respect or wonder involved. Beauty and sublimity arouse wonder, but fear is absent.
It occurs to me that awe might be the "Tao" of which fear and admiration are th "yang" and the "yin." I remember awe being described somewhere as the most positive emotion, the clearest correlate of good mental health.
I must have been four. We had moved from Alaska back to "the States." We were kiving in a house rather than a shack, but we might have preferred the shack. There was no running water which meant no plumbing, which meant that we had a "Chic Sales" about fifty yards from the house (or it might have been 50 feet--every thing looks bigger and longger to a four-year-old).
It was late at night or early in the morning. Stars were visible, but the moon was down. There was no artificial lighting. It was dark, bur i knew the way to the outhouse. I think my love affair with night had already begun. I closed the door and sat down. The door was pushed open, and a massive hulk appeared in its place. In the few seconds that it took for that "hulk" to transform itself into a "dairy cow" i felt a deep unpleasant, nauseating feeling that i was able to recognize when i felt it again 22 years later, as fear.
this is the first of my very few clear childhood memories and i can almost feel the wrenching in my gut as i try to recall it. What was its significance? My memory ends with the cow's face in front of me.
Its an old story told in many versions (coiled hose or coiled snake, e.g.: when perspective changes, feelings change. Perspectives are a major component of most situations and circumstances, If the "hullk" had renaubed a hulk or had i been a chlorophyll based life form panic night have been an excusable respone, but almost never a useful one. Even 22 years later, i had not yet learned that lesson; it took many, many more years than that.
Calm might not provide necessary motivation for adeqate defensive action, but it is always the optimal approach to percieved danger. When i panuc i may escape the threat but there will much collateral damage. I cannot let my fears contaminate the emotions of innocent bystanders who may have no reason to share my fears.