"Dawn in the Desert"
After church yesterday I had a rather lengthy conversation with a group of people who all agreed that they had come to the point where they now hesitate to look at their smartphones or turn on the radio or TV when they get up in the morning because they fear they will be confronted by some new catastrophe that happened overnight.
My guess is that lots of people live with an underlying sense of ongoing fear, always on-guard, waiting for some foreboding danger that may happen at any time. People fear the next incident of a “Las Vegas” type shooting, they fear nuclear arms escalation, perhaps they are afraid that another natural disaster like a hurricane may strike. Some people are afraid of getting on an airplane or going to the mall or even going to a restaurant because this might be the scene for the next terrorist attack.
The other day the New York Times published an interesting article about the devastating effects fear and anxiety can have upon the health and wellbeing of our ordinary, everyday living:
Fear pushes people to adopt a defensive posture in life.
When people feel anxious and fearful
they’re less open to diverse ideas and opinions
and less forgiving and tolerant of those they disagree with.
When people are afraid they cling to the certainty of the world they know
and avoid taking physical, emotional and intellectual risks.
When I think about today’s society so infected by defensiveness and divisiveness, so intolerant of those who are “different,” I wonder if this is a direct result of the pervasive sense of fear that holds so many of us hostage every day.
Fear keeps us from living our everyday lives in joy and with peace. A sense of prevailing fear forces people to withdraw into isolation, into their own self-barricades, within the confines of guarded egos cut off from others - a sure way to poison the spirit and destroy the soul.
I am reminded of an article in one of my books of Buddhist essays. It provides a very helpful insight and offers an antidote to the fear-filled poison that seems to be so profoundly infecting so many of us.
There is no secure or unchanging ground
and we make ourselves safe only when we see and accept the truth that
life is utterly spontaneous and impermanent.
When it is time to laugh, we laugh.
When it is time to weep, we weep.
We are cheated of nothing in life except that
from which we withhold ourselves by egos narrow bounds.
These bounds were made to break if we ever hope to be whole again.
As I see it, lots of people fool themselves into thinking that life on this earth is never ending, stable and permanent and that we are able to control almost everything that happens; but the truth is that we can control almost nothing and everything in life is impermanent - a process of endless change. When we are able to live into this truth, fear loses its grip on us.
Interestingly enough, there is no phrase that is used more often in the entire Bible than the words: Do not be afraid. The Bible never says that there are no problems and all the danger is gone; instead, the Bible constantly teaches: Do not be afraid! The spirit of "God" abides among us in the midst of all the chaos and we have one another as companions on life’s journey. Love is the energy that rules the universe. Do not be afraid.
Today when I woke up, without hesitation I looked at my smart phone and turned on the news and then I went went outside. The sun was rising and a gentle breeze was blowing at the dawn of a beautiful day in the desert. So I opened my arms and I opened my heart, ready to embrace whatever comes my way.
I am not afraid.