Living Beyond Your Life Today
It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give
and the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.
– Lyrics in The Rose, Bette Midler artist, Amanda McBroom composer
As often as my heart has been touched by Bette Midler’s singing of The Rose, and today when I heard composer and American chanteuse Amanda McBroom sing it, I have thought that I must write something about fear dominating people’s lives. But I didn’t write. I was afraid that what I wrote would not be as perfect as the song. Note the irony.
Realization of my own fear and how it has affected my reluctance to write about fear became my motivation to write this.
Fear is much more than an emotion, more than an enhancement of the instinctive caution native to each of us. Fear instructs our lives. It dominates the lives of many of us. It shapes us as individuals, as communities and as nations.
Along with everyone else I have watched business and investment leaders charged, convicted and imprisoned for lying out of fear. True, they embezzled millions of dollars from shareholders and investors. But why? They were afraid to tell the truth, that they had failed. They delayed admitting their failure by lying, which ultimately resulted in their incarceration.
Along with everyone else I watched the American public being hoodwinked by their president so he could finish what his father failed to do, and line the pockets of his benefactors with gold in the process, by taking his country into a second (simultaneous) war, this one in Iraq. The USA will be lucky to avoid the fate of its former rival, the former USSR, that went bankrupt and dissolved into chaos in the 1990s. Why would Americans allow themselves to be lied to, to go into an unwarranted and extraordinarily costly war? They had been taught to be afraid that a dictator who could barely hold onto power in his own country had international connections that would wreak havoc on US soil.
Americans believed they should be afraid, though they had no evidence other than the lies of their president. Fear is on the curriculum in every US school, those it is given various other names.
Having moved to the Miramichi area of New Brunswick, Canada, in 2008, I saw how apparently comfortable my new neighbours were toward the possibilities of losing their jobs and having to start over. In my native Toronto, some people would commit suicide or turn to addictive behaviour–at the least start toking marijuana–at the prospect of losing their job. Not because they knew they couldn’t start over but because of the fear of public recognition of their job loss as a personal failure. Miramichiers expect to lose their jobs at some points in their lives and they accept no stigma about it–and offer none against others–whereas people of Ontario fear the public disgrace.
The fear of losing their reputations as well as their jobs causes many people greater fear than the prospect of finding another job. That fear affects their lives, how they conduct themselves every day of their lives. Collectively, the fear of many people impacts whole communities and countries.
People become afraid to speak to each other on elevators or when passing on the street, likely because they fear ending up on the front pages of newspapers as victims of murder, mugging or rape. They fear letting their children out of their sight because they might be charged with neglect, that fear resulting in children who never grow out of their dependence on mommy or a mommy figure in adulthood.
In every case, fear is unwarranted. In every case, fear is taught by those who have something to gain and learned by those who will provide that gain. Fear is a way for a few to control the behaviour and lives of many others. How many Germans in the 1930s and 1940s followed Hitler, becoming murderers and traitors in the process, because they were afraid of Hitler’s power? How many wars have been fought–virtually every war has some association with religion–because the people of one side were made to fear people of the other?
The cosmetics–and to a large extent the pharmaceutical–industry exists solely because of the fear they have created in people, in individuals, that they are not perfect. The OTC (over the counter) supplement industry is booming because people fear becoming ill and disabled as they get older. Some will overdose and harm themselves in the process of trying to protect themselves.
Returning to Amanda McBroom’s lyrics, “it’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.” How many people fail to find love in their lives, or mess it up if they do, because they fear a relationship breaking up? Media reports of marital breakup rates are ceaseless, while education systems never address the problem that people don’t know how to have successful relationships. People who avoid falling in love because they fear breaking up miss an important point about life. Falling in love and breaking up is part of how a person becomes complete, how a person learns to do it better next time. Taking chances is instinctive, while avoiding them is done out of fear of failure. It’s fear that’s not natural.
“It’s the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give.” By not trusting others out of fear that they will fail us or steal from us we become closed up emotionally. We become the kind of people that others don’t want to trust. People don’t want to trust others who don’t trust. Trusting another person with our emotions may be risky, but not trusting anyone with our emotions but ourselves generates much greater risk of poor mental, emotional and even physical health (suppression of the immune system).
“The soul afraid of dying…never learns to live.” The person who fears death becomes afraid of life. Everyone accepts that death is part of life: birth, death and taxes (thanks to G.B. Shaw). However, many fear death because they have no idea what to expect afterwards. They have rejected the obviously fictitious guesses of traditional religions about the hereafter, but have nothing to replace them with.
If you plan to go on a hike into a wilderness area or national park where you haven’t been before, you go prepared. You take a compass or GPS, some form of shelter, you scout topographic and place maps, you take more food and water than you expect to use. You know where you are going, even though you haven’t been there before. Then why not do that with the afterlife: prepare.
Are you afraid of dying and as a consequence you don’t know how to live? Living well is your whole purpose for being here. If you are afraid of dying, you become selfish, as all fearful people become. They think of themselves because they tend to fear what others may introduce into their lives. That’s the complete opposite of what living is about.
Every animal and plant we know has the instinct for survival. We humans have it too. But if we depend on our survival instinct to give us direction for our lives, we live a life no different from that of any other animal or plant. Certainly no greater. And we can expect what happens on our death to be similar to what we expect happens to grass and oak trees, gerbils and frogs when they die.
If you want to live, you must not fear death. Death is simply the end of one phase of your existence before you move on. Prepare yourself for your death by living your life to help others. That is the only way you can be different from any other animal or plant. Only people help their own kind, more than simply to avoid starvation.
You have nothing to fear about death unless you allow yourself to be deceived by those who just don’t “get it.” People who believe that only what may be detected and manoeuvred by the senses really exists have put themselves into a box at which they are the centre. They may lead peaceful and self-fulfilling lives, but they do little to help others because they can’t see outside their box. They are, in effect, intelligent ants with only two legs.
Nothing in nature suggests that life ends with death. In nature, every atom that ever existed still exists today, unless it has been transformed into energy, which is simply another state of existence. Conservation of Energy and Matter is the rule of nature. Why should it not be the rule for life as well.
However, you must live your life outside the box. You must be more than other animals and plants or you can expect only to be reformulated as one of them at death. You must create a persona for yourself that is distinctive from that of any other person, while seeking to work with others for the greater benefit of our kind. Nature conserves what exists, so create yourself into something worth saving on the death of your cellular body.
You should not expect your aches and pains and earthly troubles to pass with you into a future life. Why would you want them? Yet how you deal with them while you are here will determine what kind of persona you create for yourself.
Don’t be afraid. Every other animal and plant on earth is guarded about its safety, about its existence in the future. They expect the end of their lives to be the ends of who or what they are.
You don’t have to be afraid. Fear requires too much selfishness, too much energy and too much life-time.
Live your life as if you want to continue with the next phase of your existence after you die and you will have created something worth conserving after you die. According to everything we know about nature and the “real world” we know now, what you create will continue after your body quits.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to teach their children how to live life without fear, but with powerful and effective guidance about how they should live their lives.
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