Fear has sometimes been defined as the opposite of love. I like that. It is very succinct and helps us understand better what love is not. Our culture uses the word love entirely too indiscriminately. When we label our warm, fuzzy feelings for another being, another creature, or a favorite food as love, the word has lost its intrinsic meaning which Ethan Walker, 3rd in “The Mystic Christ” describes as the feeling of knowing we are all one.
“And what is wisdom? Wisdom is knowing we are all one. Love is what it feels like, and compassion is what it acts like.”
Perhaps fear can be also understood as the manifestation of ignorance. We don’t, in this usage, mean ignorance as a crass, rude, impolite form of behavior but rather, ignorance as an “unawareness”. The unknown beliefs of a religion foreign to us, the curious customs of a culture half way around the world, the misinformation of a lifestyle not familiar to us are all forms of unawareness. Often, rather than gaining insight, and credible information, and then applying wisdom (knowing we are all one), it is easier to build a personal defense system based on fear.
Individually, this type of personal armament leads to racism, hatred, and intolerance. When a theology or a government tries to protect and enhance its control by means of fear-peddling and hate-mongering the world becomes witness to oppression, deprivation and genocide.
Yes, it is challenging to us. We in America are born into a culture of self-serving egocentrism where gaining the upper hand, winning at all costs, and coming out on top with the most toys is the mantra of those who are deemed successful. Even some of our mainstream religions have replaced the Gospel of sacrifice and compassion with the gospel of affluence which questions one’s faith if one has not attained the dream of materialism.
We must bring this tendency to fear to our inner place of meditation and reflection. We are one in solidarity with the entire universe, all it’s humanity, all its creatures, all its beauty, all its ugliness, all its promises and all its disappointments. In totality we are one complete organism. We are dependent on each person and every feature of our universe for our survival.
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne (1572-1631) Meditation XVII, 1624