Fear keeps us immobilized, but action is what we need now.
I remember only one line from David Cronenberg’s 1986 movie, The Fly:
“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Fear is a protective mechanism. It can keep us from pursing dangerous pursuits. It can keep us safe.
It can also keep us locked in anxiety and block us off from the very opportunities that help us, and others, grow and thrive.
Just before we left on our California aimless road trip, a studio visitor brought me a book to read: Unsaid, by Neil Abramson. I didn’t actually get a chance to read much on the trip. But today I read the author’s note, to see if I should read it right away, or start with my pile of borrowed-time library books.
And then I read his words:
…I was surprised at the depth of the loss I felt. The only way I can explain it is to tell that something deep within me shifted. I realized I was so grateful for every minute with Skippy and I wouldn’t have traded the time with him for anything in the world, even thought that time ended too soon. Then I realized that this was Skippy’s last gift to me…(H)e taught me how important the act of living really is and how limited by fear I had become…. (Italics are mine.)
How limited by fear I had become…
Everyone I’ve talked to the last few days has shared how they’ve felt the last few weeks–stunned, anxious, ill, sad, depressed, fearful.
We thought the social changes in our world were going to continue for years to come. We thought we’d overcome our fear of ‘the other’–people who are different than us, people who talk differently, who have different skin color, who pray with different prayers, who love a different way. “Different” had gone from “dangerous and scary” to “yet another color on the spectrum of humanity”.
All that seems swept away. The fear of “different” feels like it’s not only reversed, but reached monstrous proportions. And we feel helpless.
We are not helpless.
It’s time for us to get brave, and step outside our comfort zone. It’s time for all of us to become activists, however we can. It’s time for us to put our money, our time, our words, our presence, where our mouth–er, heart–is.
All of us have skills and strengths, interests and connections. It’s time to put them to good use.
I’ve talked to people recently, who have gently moved from “being afraid” to realizing they can put their expertise to good use. They can contribute to stopping the spread of fake “news”. They can teach people how to research the crazy articles that foment hate and fear. They can put their hobbies to good use raising funds for social justice. They can share the joy and courage in their hearts, that has spurred them to make their creativity visible in the world, and create joy and courage in others. They can use the simplest acts to help others.
Food kitchens have hordes of volunteers on the holidays. Why not commit to helping on the ordinary days instead?
I love reading. It’s time to share that love with elementary kids again.
I see friends who have people they cares deeply about, people who, historically, have been easily marginized. They are standing up for them.
I’m going to join the Million Women March in January. I’m scared–I’ve never been the protest-march type. But what is my fear, compared to the very real fear of so many other people? Not much.
Don’t let fear immobilize you. Don’t let it speak for you.
Let your heart speak for you instead.
Something will cross your path in the days ahead–a volunteer opportunity, a fundraising effort, a conversation, a chance to participate. For me, the afterword of a book I haven’t even read yet.
When it does, your heart will let you know. You will feel “the call”–a tiny, unexplained lifting of your spirit.
Follow it. See where it goes. Share it here. I’d love to know!
Remember those other, just as powerful words, that will take you to a place of light, and connection, and justice:
Be not afraid.
Be like my rabbit Bunster, may she rest in peace (with lots of stuff to chew on, and someone’s lap to leap into.) She was full of fear. Rabbits are full of fear.
But she also had a place in the world, and my life is richer because of her.