There are basically two kinds of fear. One is a healthy, informed fear. The other is a neurotic, uninformed fear.
If I see an oncologist about various symptoms of dizziness, blackouts, severe nausea and other physiological issues and the doctor after a series of tests tells me I have a massive malignant and inoperable tumor on my spine, I have a legitimate right to be fearful. The facts are in and I must face them.
If on the other hand I wake up with a painful stomach ache and spend the day believing I have stomach cancer, then my fear is irrational and probably meaningless. I have nothing to base my fear on except my own neurotic worries that I am dying.
This is where we are in America politically and religiously. Huge numbers of our citizens are living in the worst kind of hysterical, obsessive fear based on nothing more than their own gut feelings, and of course, the maddening, overwrought deceitfulness and hype of various forms of media that keep telling us we’re all about to be destroyed by terrorists, Muslims, gays, liberals, Democrats, Socialists, people of color, fundamentalists, red necks, gun lovers and so forth.
People questioning the president’s love of country, his race, how he was raised, implying he’s a Communist or worse. That sort of thing comes from aberrant fear, from the minds of people emotionally maladjusted.
This endless impasse in Congress, the petty rivalry there, the hands waving in the air in mass hysteria, the calls for war, the insane and irrational frenzy that Blacks or other minorities are somehow shutting out Whites, the preposterous gibe that gay people are destroying marriage, the mean rage against the undocumented—all of this by our politicians is, yes, undisguised political theater—but it feeds the fears of good people in the country who for some reason have decided to believe these things are true. It leaves them living in fear and hate.
I have always believed in the innate goodness of humankind. I have lived my life by that thought. But these days I wonder if perhaps I have been wrong all along. Perhaps people are not in their heart decent and kind and humane, that they then for whatever the reasons choose, innately, to be crude and selfish and violent. Is it that people really are born evil in their hearts, small minded, bitter and cruel. And we all of us have to fight like crazy to be anything different from that. That the struggle to be good-hearted and honorable and caring is defeated from the get go. That we never get there. That in fact those who accept and act out of their dark hearts are the winners in the end. They become the rulers, those ultimately in control of everything, while the rest of us live in the flimsy attempt to be something better but ultimately become the servants of the worst within ourselves.
We end up living in frantic, antagonistic, scornful fear. And this keeps us from ever developing into more spacious personalities, into people who truly do choose to love over hate, who decide to live by a set of values that honor all people and that enhance life.
Writer and novelist, Ursula K. Le Guin, has written: “The Earth is beautiful, and bright, and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel. The rabbit shrieks dying in the green meadows. The mountains clench their great hands full of hidden fire. There are sharks in the sea, and there is cruelty in men’s eyes. And where men worship these things and abase themselves before them, there evil breeds.”
I wonder if this worship of war, of violence, of greed—if this incessantly debasing ourselves in prejudice and hate and terrible fear, is our human legacy, our final destination as people.
We seem as a society to be caught in a downward spiral of horrible fear that is robbing all of us of the fragile possibility of something better.
© 2015 Timothy Moody