Fear

It goes something like this:

A young warrior awoke from yet another nightmare with a raging pain in his belly; a remnant of his dream. Confused as to the source of the pain, he consulted his father. “Father,” he began. “Night after night I have the same nightmare. It is of two wolves within me. They fight incessantly. Why do I have this dream? What does it mean?”

The father replied that these two wolves are representations of his warring emotions. Extremes, they represent, one for each. Love. And fear. His father continued by explaining that they will always be there, fighting for all time. The young warrior asked, “Which one will ultimately win the battle?” The father answered, “Why, the one you feed.”

Such is the essence of fear. The extreme and polar opposite of the great emotion and desire of most. Love.

For most of us fear begins the first day someone asks us to do or say something that we are unsure we can do or say. Stretching ourselves beyond our known abilities can be very frightening. But never more so than when we attempt a new feat called standing. Stand up on those rubbery appendages called legs and walk to mama. Stand to and give a report to the class about your research findings. Relearn to walk after your knee replacement surgery is complete.

One thing I have learned over my life is that fear tends to not be what you know but what you don’t know. The things you are aware of, but unaware of its potential. We tend to fear things and people that are beyond our control and influence.

Death is an unknown that we are very aware of, but know nothing about. ‘…Oh, death where is your sting?..’ the writer says. The sting is not in the actual death. Not even on the pain of it’s coming. Oh, sure, it may hurt the one experiencing it. But once it happens, what are you going to feel? I mean really? So the sting lays in its destructive aftermath. The experience for those who are left behind. The loss. The not knowing if you went up or down, if you believe in either of those. The fear is not knowing how to go on without the one who is lost. Fear and pain seem inextricably tied to one another as old friends.

So what do we do? Should fear be fought against? Perhaps even denied it’s very existence? Starved of its sustenance if you will? Science tells us we have the fight or flight instinct. When faced with a fear inducing event we have two choices, they say. To fight it. Or flee from it. What we haven’t been told, I believe, is there’s a third option: work with it.

But does it work?

In the latest Avengers movie, the heroes asked Bruce how he was able to defeat the Hulk within. How did he control his anger? He said simply that he was always angry. He learned how to operate WITH his angers and fears. His achievement was not to fight himself but to learn to live with himself. He grew to accept that anger was a part of his psyche. As such, it was healthier and ultimately more beneficial to learn the new normal while embracing his anger.

But that is a movie. How can a movie possibly be a truth teller?

Glad you asked.

There was a sermon I was witness to once. The essence of that sermon was we must learn to embrace the fears we have. Become intimate with them. We really need to learn to get to know the fears name. Where it came from. What it likes for breakfast. How old it is. What school did it go to. You get the picture.

The idea is not to hide from our fear spot or shelter in our happy spot any more than Bruce ran from his angry spot. By embracing our fears we eliminate its crippling power.

Recall the story at the beginning of this blog. The warring wolves. Ask yourself: Which would you feed?

If you feed only the fear wolf it will grow stronger. Offer nourishment to the love wolf and it will grow stronger. But if you feed both, both will continue to serve you. Fear is inescapable. It is part of the human experience and needed for survival and recognition of the unknown dangers lurking around the corner. Fear will save us as readily as love has since love first carried us through. So why seek to crush the very wolves that must be there and have been there for us all our lives?

I would argue that fear must be embraced (with all apologies to Master Yoda) as much as love must be. It is within our base character to act within ourselves. We are humans and capable of great things. Love and fear are simply a part of the human experience.

I submit that if you wish to conqueror your fears, you are already on the wrong foot. Seek to embrace your fears. Just as you have embraced your loves. Be as intimately relational to the fears you carry as your loves. You should know your fears going and coming. Know how far it will push you and make you react oddly.

For let’s face it, unmitigated fear makes us do weird things.

But that is usually because we have not tried to work with our fears.

A child may ask how can you do this and how can you do that? That looks so scary. It’s not because you’re so much better or wiser or stronger than your fear. But because you’ve learned that by holding fears hand and saying its gonna be ok. We can do this. Fear looks back at you and says ‘.. It’s Ok. I got you if you go too far.’ I’ll leave you on this.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Traveled a lot. It’s said that when he would return home he would take his youngest daughter up in his arms and place her on top of the refrigerator. He would then urge her to leap into his arms. Time after time she would refuse saying she was too afraid to jump. Then the day came she took her fears with her.

Dr. King placed her high as usual and urged her again. This time she closed her eyes.

And jumped.

And her father caught her.

And Dr. King said ‘… You’ve just made the most important decision of your life. You jumped. And trusted that everything will be ok when you land.’ She learned that but trusting her fears to not take her beyond her limits. Her fears to keep her safe. The love of her father to catch her. That when she trusted her loves and fears in equal measure

She then knew that she was gonna be ok. And so will you.

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Long way from home.

I am a Hoosier.

Period.

But what is a Hoosier? I mean beyond the furniture piece, I mean.

If you have ever watched a happy couple shouting with glee while sitting on a hard wooden bleacher in a run down field house. But instead of laughing you find a clear spot on the bench and shout right along with them, then you know what it is to be Hoosier. If you’ve understand what it means to appreciate and seek state fairs that include Holstein and sows and deep fried anything on a stick. Well, then you you just might appreciate what being a Hoosier is all about. If you actually swell up a bit with real pride when someone calls you a Hick. If you hear Jim Neighbors sing and smile. Or see Tony Stewart drive fast and turn left and your second thought is he’s from my home state. If you just KNOW that the worlds biggest Christmas tree is indeed dead center of the state and why in the world don’t YOU know that too? That all cities should have the central street named Meridian because that just makes sense. If the number 31 means more than just the number following 30. Much more…. Then you might just be on the cusp of understanding what being a Hoosier means.

But not even just that. The smell of the open air even in the city center. The strawberry festivals and the Pernod fairs. Monon bike trails and little league baseball. Cheering for the minor league series because you couldn’t care any less for the bigs if you tried. What for? The Indians are hosting and tickets are going fast. Museums upon museums that just scream quality and culture. A library that is a marvel to behold.

If you’re now living in another state like I do, and still feel your pulse quicken when you hear the news report say that Eli Lilly did something else newsworthy or Rose Hulman has another sports figure in its care. Or hear that Mario is bringing a new team member up to join his team and you’ll see him on Memorial Day. What could be better? And then just as quickly blanch when the election shows that once again, Indiana is painted red while surrounded by blue…. Again.

I’ve lived in many states since leaving Indiana. It’s been harder and harder the longer I’ve been gone to stay in touch. Most of my memories tend to center around childhood activities and sports teams because those two things are strongest on my mind and on my television. Of course it comes with its own set of challenges. Living in a rival state can bring immediate scorn from rabid fans for the other team. “.. Oh…. You’re a PACER fan, huh?…” “… The COLTS? Seriously?…” Long pause while they process an insult directed at me rather than the team but clearly not meant to show pride in their own team, but simple disgust for mine. Y’see, sports are low hanging fruit. If you really want to insult a Hoosier. Don’t start with the teams. We are accustomed to post season let downs. They no longer crush us but instead define and unite us. The recent victories: Colts in 2006, Fever in 2012…. Those keep us hopeful and loyal. But not even just for the victories. For the losses where our defense showed up and made a game of it. Yeah. Those are the times we are most proud. Where is YOUR pride?

I cannot tell you how many sports fans of other states and cities will quickly shout down and boo their own team if they fail to advance and then quickly turn on an Indiana team just to be nasty. My opinion.

But lets leave the teams for a bit and talk a little about the less controversial things of Indiana. The world outside of Indianapolis. Sure, folks in Indianapolis tend to forget that there are places outside of Indy beyond Bloomington, Terre Haute and Fort Wayne. But it’s not for the expected reasons you might think. Central Indiana folk do not look at surrounding (and it IS surrounding as Indy is dead center of the state; crossroads of America… Remember?) areas and talk about backwards thinking and small town mentality. Indianapolis itself has a small town mentality. That happens to be one of its strengths. We look at our surrounding towns and villages and cities and think that they are peopled with salt of the earth Hoosiers. They are places where you will find mysterious lives that cradle everyone from Amish buggy drivers to RV dealerships. They are the places that give us the worlds greatest basketball players and most celebrated singers. And don’t think for minute that Michael wasn’t chided in the media quite as much as he was just because he was weird. It’s because he was a Hoosier. Again. My opinion.

I remember how Indianapolis was the only city I knew where the black folk lived on the north side and the white lived on the south. I used to ride my bicycle from my house in the northwest burbs to city center as a matter of course. And was quite safe doing so even at the tender age of 13. Try THAT in a city of your choice today. Indy was safe.

Indy was quiet. And I suppose it still is by and large.

We had working farms across the ditch from my house up until I was a teen. Where I live now it is also quiet and all I can think is how much the rolling clouds and windy days remind me of my youth and home. Though Indiana has few if any mountains more than a couple of kilometers tall, this state I’m in now has it’s share. Indiana is known for its flatness. Both it’s geography and it’s residents spoken accents. That flat landscape tends to allow weather to fly through the state as any apostle of Bob Gregory can attest. Many states try to say that if you don’t like the weather stick around a bit. It’ll change. I doesn’t care if you think it came from your state. Indiana coined it first because we MEAN it here.

No. Indiana isn’t all good. It birthed a KKK grand dragon and still has terrible poverty in the near east side and most of the west side of the states crown city. The crime rates are high and farmland is slowly disappearing.

But the state still feels small while it yet grows. And that helps keep us humble. While other cities and states build high and beat their chest in false bravado, Indy remains a plugger. Humble is a flavor pie few other states can admit to recognizing the taste.

And quite honestly I love Indiana for it. And for being my home no matter where I go. No matter where I lay my head. Indiana will always be home.

New year

2013 is no more. I am ambivalent about it. It was a year of challenges which is what I needed. A year of new responsibilities. Also something I needed. And a year that started out with trepidation and finished on a high note. I see the new year as being filled with promises. It’s my duty to see to it they are fulfilled. My year surely will include unforeseen events and planned activities that I am ready for and those I’m not. But I am sure that whatever comes, God has prepared me for them. I’m equipped and ready to see all that 2014 has to offer.

Please join me.

That said, someone please tell Miley Cyrus to put her tongue back in her mouth and never ever take the stage again using little people or black people as props. They are living beings. Not props. Thank you. Ok. Until next time.