What is it that I fear so much,
We fear so much
In this life and what’s next?
That makes me lose my reason, my recall, my trust, my breadth of vision, my capability
Is it loss of all I cherish
My loves, my credit-worthiness
Leaving me bereft
Useless, purposeless, worthless, paralysed, alone
Is it causing others pain
Filling me with guilt and shame?
Awaiting some kind of painful retribution
Administered from on high
For doing something wrong
That I shouldn’t have done
Or not doing something right
That I should have done
Or not knowing
What I should have known?
Is it some great missing out
Through making the wrong decision
Making me regret what I decided
Even though it seemed right at the time
What’s love got to do with it?
What’s money got to do with it?
Where did this fear come from?
Some might say my free will
Some might say my ego
Some might say my greed
Some might say my human nature
Growing like a weed
To spoil my garden of delight
Like that snake-in-the-grass
With forked tongue and venomous bite
That’s so hard to see, pin down or grasp
Worming its way from then to now
In my life,
Saying we should know
What we can’t know in advance
Before it’s too late to change course
But in reality none of us can make free choices
Independent from our circumstances
So none of us can be free from cultural influence
Stretching from past through current to not yet
Calling us back and forth in endless iterations of the same old stories
Concocted from hindsight
Heaven from Hell
Good from Evil
Light from Darkness
Something from Nothing
Perfection from Imperfection
Success from Failure
Blamelessness from Blameworthiness
Endlessly confusing association with causation
Outcome with mechanism
Handed down through generations
By word of mouth
Into fear’s unwitting ears
Regardless of contextual influence
How I long to be free from it
To cast this fear to some far place
Out of sight and mind…
And yet, my dream says
I must handle it
With tender, loving care
Forgiving its trespasses
Regardless of the discomfort
For only then will it feel at home
And coil up on my hearth
Never more than fleetingly
Wishing me or others ill
But quite the contrary
Despite its alarming appearance
No longer a fear to be feared
When it slithers out of place
But guardian of my soul
Guardian of all our souls
To be revered
Not cast aside or bottled up
Somewhere it can’t reside
Having struggled with severe anxiety all my life, I am well-acquainted with fear and its paralysing, blighting influence on my work, love and trust both of myself and of others in my vicinity. I have had good reason to try to understand its source and find ways to alleviate it. In the process I have discovered just how resistive it is to being dislodged, and how readily it finds loopholes in the defences my mind sets up to block its path. I have also discovered its creative influence in imagining the unthinkable and questioning my own and others’ assumptions about the way the world is.
What has become clear to me through this struggle is that fear of pain and loss has a natural and loving place in our lives, helping us to care compassionately for our selves and others in our neighbourhood through the fulfilment of needs and avoidance and mitigation of danger. This might seem obvious, but I feel it needs to be said because the temptation can be very strong to deny the discomfort fear brings, either by means of romantic pretence that the natural world is benign, or rationalistic defence that insulates its self within a ‘thick skin’ of insensitivity. And it is these forms of denial of our vulnerability as mortal, fallible beings that in my personal experience can actually aggravate fear and render us prone to terrorise ourselves or be terrorised by others.
What I feel greatly aggravates our natural fear is the prevalent myth in modern human culture that we are personally responsible for what happens to us as a consequence of our exemplary or defective knowledge, abilities, values and choices. This myth is both sourced within and exploited by a controlling and competitive political culture that seeks power over rather than supportive natural companionship* with ‘other’. It causes us to feel it’s our own fault or seek to blame others when we perceive that things have gone wrong, and to claim sole credit for whatever we perceive has gone right. We may confuse association with causation and ask ourselves potentially endless and debilitating questions along the lines of ‘what if I, you, he, she or it had or hadn’t done this or that?’
In reality, however, whatever happens to us in life is overwhelmingly context-dependent because we cannot isolate our selves from the circumstances in which we are situated and over which we have no control whatsoever. What we may imagine to be our ‘independent choices’ may actually be inevitable commitments to pathways that open up to us in the course of our lives, in much the same way that water flows along and reinforces paths of least resistance through its surroundings. A river doesn’t use post-hoc rationalization** to explain, excuse, justify or take credit for the course it has taken, so why should we?
To realize this does not imply that we need not be considerate about how what we do affects ourselves and others. Quite the contrary — such consideration is a vital learning experience that helps us to avoid harm and be creative. But it does relieve us from the needless guilt and shame that can arise from not being able to live up to unrealistic hopes and expectations that take no account of context, and to replace those feelings with compassionate understanding and forgivingness. Moreover, it provides us with the courage, both individually and collectively, to question and change those culturally embedded myths that only serve to terrorize and stupefy us.
For further enquiry into the meaning and significance of the contextual principle of natural inclusion, please visit my personal website at http://www.spanglefish.com/exploringnaturalinclusion.