Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fear: A Stronger Instinct Than Kindness



An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening: "farmers fear that they will lose business".

Fear IS an unpleasant emotion. There are what we call healthy fears; the fear that if you touch the hot stove it will burn you. That if you drive drunk you might kill someone. That if you cheat you will get caught. 

There are fears that don't seem rational - like people jumping on to chairs screaming if they see a mouse. Granted, I don't have that fear, so to me it does seem a little irrational. 
Some fears are based on prior experience, or the prior experiences of others. And some fears are manipulated. "If I catch you doing that again, young lady, you'll be in BIG TROUBLE." Big and little fears are with us throughout our lives.

There are plenty of them projected our way if we choose to accept them. "The President Wants To Take All Of Your Guns Away," is a rather popular fear being projected from certain circles these days. 

It's all about what we choose to accept. We can always be susceptible to fear. I've been living with fear for a long time now. I haven't had a full time job for five years. I've been able to skate by with help from friends and part time jobs. The longer one is out of work, the harder it is to find a job. Add getting older to that, as well as vigorous public use of the First Amendment, and one has a recipe for permanent unemployment. The level of poverty I live in means frequently moving. Most of my belongings are in storage. I move from place to place, my car looks like a moving van, and I dream every night that I'm in some weird living situation. I call this "moving PTSD". There is nothing on the horizon that indicates that this will be ending any time soon. I could be living in my car any day now. And what if that car breaks down? What if...what if...? keeps me awake at night. I live with fear every day. 

This was brought home to me in a vivid and unattractive way yesterday. I read this story in the New York Daily Record, about a job fair for the unemployed and for ex-offenders. Except in my fear, they were CRIMINALS and unemployed folks were being stigmatized by being lumped in with them. 

This isn't ordinarily how I think. I know very well how difficult life is for people who are released from any kind of incarceration. They're apt to have lost jobs, housing, families, credit - and no one wants to give them any kind of a break. 

Yet my first thought was not that we're all in this together. My first thought came right from the place of deep, primal fear. 

Fear can make us forget what we know to be true - but only if we let it. I cannot afford to let it. 

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

A big tip-o-the-hat to Arnie Alpert. 

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