From the work in progress Life: A Book About Learning to Live
By Jim Rosemergy
Fear is the faceless one I have to face.
As a child, I remember walking to school during the Cuban missile crisis wondering if I would be alive when it was time to walk home. It was my first experience with a fear that makes your soul shutter. I was not afraid of nuclear war. I was afraid to die. I was afraid of what I did not know. Many years later, when I was a naval aviator flying combat missions over North Vietnam, I was not afraid of dying. I was afraid of being shot down and captured. I was afraid of the terror of torture. This face of fear prophesized a specific future I did not want to experience. As I live my life, I have learned that fear has many faces, and each one must be faced, but not all fears can be specifically defined. Some fears are faceless.
Now as I write in the early years of the 21st century, fear has a new name, a new face — terror. It is now an ism — terrorism. The first goal of a terrorist is to instill fear. They know that fear can paralyze us. It clouds our thinking and demands that we either run, fight, or act defensively. Rather than forge ahead creatively, fearful people try to protect what they have. They may strike out at others, but usually they try to preserve something.
Fear is contagious. The terrorists are afraid, and fearful people tend to create fear. Thus far, those who try to end terrorism try to end the lives of the terrorists. Obviously, this approach generates more fear, and fear being the contagion it is infects more people, thus creating more terrorists. The solution to terrorism is to discover what the terrorists fear and try to alleviate their terror.
Regrettably, in these perilous times some of our leaders strive to evoke fear in the populous in order to manipulate the public into supporting actions they think will eliminate fear, terror, and the enemy. Interesting strategy… evoke fear in others, so they will support actions to combat fear. Can you see how contagious fear can be?
Fear tends to get in our face before it enters our heart. Have you ever gotten into the face of fear? I have. Here’s what I did.
Fear proposed a future in which I die. My reply was, “Is that all you’ve got?” Fear showed me a life of captivity, and I said, “Is that all you’ve got?” Fear spoke of loss of job and family to which I replied, “Is that all you’ve got?” I was willing to ponder the loss fear placed before me. I faced the fear I felt, and fear didn’t like it at all.
This is the crux of the matter. When we are fearful, we are afraid to live. We may think we are afraid to die or be captured or tortured or to be alone, but the truth is we are afraid to live. The great unknown, the future that has yet to come, stretches before us, and we are afraid to take its hand.
Two winds dissipate the fog of fear. The first is to face the future that fear proposes. My willingness to accept what fear forecast freed me to live. If I die, I die; if I am captured, I am captured, but up to the moment I draw my last breath or shackles are placed on my wrist, I will live. The second wind lifts me up as I realize I don’t have to fear the future when I live in the moment. The future never seems to come when each moment is fully lived. Fear is the faceless one I have to face.