Cutting the Cake of Fear
If it wasn't for fear I would not have accumulated the certificates, diploma's and post-graduate qualifications that I now have, fear is a natural part of a human being and any thought that it must be eradicated or subdued makes us lose sight of the advantages that evolution intended by giving us a sense of fear. Yet some of that evolution is indeed out-of-date, especially when fear takes the form of fight or flight, because our bodily systems have not evolved to the age we presently live in - but even then once we intelligently understand these effects, we can adapt fear as an emotional intelligence, rather than as a social nightmare.
The younger we learn these lessons, the more adaptive we will become in later life - but our education system is not built of that adaptation. Far from it, it is still largely ignorant of that adaptation and so instead of viewing fear as an evolutionary input into emotional intelligence, it places students into environments which academics see as a simulation for the real world. A pressure cooker is not the real world, it was what foolishness has transpired to feel real - and even then it does not help to recite that F.E.A.R. is False Evidence that Appears Real.
My single favourite book on fear is one called "Face Your Fears" by Rabbi Schumi Boteach. Fear works so much better from a position of Love rather than Love does from a position Fear but that is me non-Rabbi Manjit talking - Boteach takes his own perspectives of Judiasm and what flows forth from him is what I adore about the way he brings his message to the public :
Those that are of feint heart or for whom anxiety has buried deep into the psyche, may emerge from reading Boteach's book with more rather than less apprehension, because Boteach's message is what we ordinarily will describe as fearless. There is however one problem with this idea of being "fearless" - it will and most definitely get you knocked out - and this is a reality that is well known to professional boxers, including the very best that practiced pugilism. A boxer that does not know how to use their own fear to their own advantage is a dead man walking in the ring, never mind the ring of life. So there is a certain truth from this perspective to John Cale's 1974 rendition "Fear is a man's best friend" :
Right now, I have not even begun to cut the cake of fear, I have merely touched upon the taste of that cake and how it eventually will go down when it is digested. Like all things in life, the massive challenges are best cut into tinier pieces until we eat that piece of the cake which is best for us. When we talk of fear we are actually trying to have our cake and eat it, and that is not a good or wise way of cutting the cake of fear - for there is no cut, other than a reminder to me of another song called "the first cut is the deepest" What does this mean then when it comes to this idea of cutting the cake of fear? Instead of seeing a cut as a means of digesting and understanding things, the cut evokes a trigger that is within us, until we don't see the difference between cutting into the cake of fear and cutting into hurt. The latter is opening up our wounds and life is awful enough to view the history of universal scars and damages inflicted upon our humanity, to have all that - and then think about how we best cut the cake of fear.
Instead of projecting our fears on others, I am only interested here in this reflection observing my own fear. How can I deal with fear if I burden myself with all the fears of the collective human soul - surely I can not help my fellow brother and sister, if I cannot even help myself.
I know that a sense of proportionality is paramount. When it comes to fear, we lose proportionality and then we enter the world of fundamental overwhelm, and once we have shocked our system or simply stewed in incremental fear year after year, then we cannot begin to cut the cake of fear, because what we are then standing on is a bakery of pain and hurt. Proportionality is best explained when we understand what it means to "sweat blood" - this comes through in the story of the Garden of Gethsemane, where fear caused Jesus to sweat blood - and what was the basis of this fear - carrying everyone else's sin. Our fears are not comparable to that sweating of blood - so the first thing I need to understand is relative context, there is always someone in the world suffering more than we are.
That suffering perspectives teaches us to recognize pain and hurt, but it does not make us that much wiser about fear as a natural part of our human biology. Fear as a damaged psychology is not what I address here for that can take years to recover from, the kind of day-to-day fears we engage are simply challenges of today's existence - which are not the challenges of a cave dweller, even if our fear system is still built to view the world as a cave dweller.
The cut of the cake I will next reflect upon is a slice called fear of public speaking, but before I do that I will enjoy more of my Saturday morning - because this reflection on fear is not a personal obsession, it is simply a personal wisdom in the making - and while the motivations for me to write this stem from a group of people interested in being more wise to the nature of competition, any problem I engage, or any wonder I seek to make still starts as my own learning. I look forward to reflecting later on the smaller slice I cut, which includes terminology.