A frail foundation

The Yorùbá wisdom compels us to an eagerness to struggle. This is not an encouragement to behave belligerently, but rather a call to confront life’s difficulties with courage, determination, and dignity. They understood that life is replete with challenges, but what fear does is to compel us to flee not only from the challenges before us, but the very possibility of challenge. Fear seeks to reduce us to cowards, and one’s best character cannot gain expression on the frail foundation of cowardice.

Fear, the future, and the constancy of change

I am unafraid. I face the future certain that it will be daunting, certain that this species’ fate is imperiled, certain that my community is in the midst of a confluence of crises. I did not arrive at an awareness of these crises lately. I have lived with this consciousness for decades.

Nothing (save change) is inevitable. Entire planets are being born while others are being annihilated at this very moment. Species rise and fall. Nations come into being, some reaching their developmental apex, while others fade–becoming footnotes of history. Change is the only universal constant. Change is experienced as pleasant and unpleasant, but it is inevitable. I accept and embrace this reality.

However my acceptance of this is not the only basis of my lack of fear. I am unafraid because I know that humans make and remake society. I know that people, if sufficiently determined, if endowed with the faculty of intelligence and powers of imagination can accomplish great things. I know that this potential holds the power to create change advantageous to our survival, sufficient to alleviate crises. Thus, I remain open to the possibility that we will resolve to bend fate to our wills.

The bombast of fear, the vacuity of doubt

One mustn’t choose to live in the shadow of fear and doubt. Fear can populate the mind with thoughts of legions of potential perils. Fear may provoke anxiousness and anxiety, but these feelings possess an energetic quality that if properly harnessed can also motivate one to act.

Doubt is a corrosive acid upon self-assurity that if not faced and divested of its power can compel inaction when action is needed, capitulation when perseverance might carry the day.

When I was 9 years old I resolved to eradicate my fear of the dark. I went into the darkest room of my apartment and sat. I wanted the darkness to envelope me. I wanted for fear to show itself, to unleash the doom that it so often had promised, an annihilation which lay just outside of my covers.

In the beginning I was terribly afraid. I feared the invisible hordes who, draped in darkness, might prey upon me. But this fear was counter-balanced by something else, my knowledge that the darkness was merely the absence of light, and my fear merely the triumph of irrationality and the absence of reason.

I conquered my fear of the dark, and also learned something more, fear and doubt are synergistically linked, one compelling us to retreat, the other assures us that no matter what we do, the possibility of triumph is illusory. In spite of this, fear can be bested. In fact when confronted we often find that fear’s ominous vestments merely hide a withered and frail form. Similarly, doubt can also be overcome. Much of its power over us is that it seems to face us in the mirror, it lurks in our memories of failure, it resides in the possibility that what we are striving after is–like so many things–simply beyond our capacity. Doubt has to be seen for what it is, mediocrity’s companion, the one sure path that will always divert us from evolving into the people that we might potentially become. It is a fetter, yes, but an impermanent one that if discarded enables us to (re)discover who we are and what we can accomplish.

While my forays into the dark eventually bested that fear, others remained. Thus throughout my life I have found it continually necessary to seek out fear, challenge it to show itself and to deliver its promised oblivion, or to leave me be. I have also had to remind myself that it is not doubt that faces me in the mirror or lurks in my memories, but that doubt is a shadow that grows proportionally to the light within which one walks. Doubt is the inescapable echo of your voice projected into the world, faint and diminishing, but never fully absent.

Despite the bombast of fear and the vacuity of doubt, the future remains undetermined, providing us the chance to fashion our lives and the world into an image and form worthy of our highest potential.