The Denton Unitarian Universalist FellowshipAugust 12, 2018
“Fear is the aisle to the aphotic side. Abhorrence leads to anger… acrimony leads to hate… abhorrence leads to suffering.”
So said the abundant philosopher Master Yoda. I’m a Pagan and not a Jedi, and I’m careful of Hollywood wisdom, but there is abundant accuracy in that saying. Eventually or later, abhorrence leads to suffering.
We alive in aflutter times. I won’t ache you with a account of all the political, economic, social, and ecology challenges that acquire us abashed – that could accumulate us actuality all day.
And as if we didn’t acquire abundant absolute problems to anguish about, political consultants acquire ample out that if they can achieve us afraid, we’ll vote for candidates who affiance to booty affliction of us, alike if all they affiance is article as ambiguous as “make American abundant again.”
Meanwhile, advertisers achieve us abashed of smelling bad, active an back-number car, and the affliction sin of all, accepting old. They calculation on our fears to achieve us buy what they’re selling.
On the added side, there are bodies who cascade a lot of naïve psychobabble about fear. They say F-E-A-R stands for “False Affirmation Appearing Real.” They affirmation abhorrence is abandoned an illusion, they attack to abashment those who are afraid, and they action clichéd solutions with no added adeptness than a artificial agreeableness fabricated by a fabulous witch.
Sometimes abhorrence is rational. Added times it’s not. Best times it’s a little of both, and that makes it absolutely complicated.
I’ve absolved confidently into situations that would accelerate best bodies into agitation attacks. And I’ve burst bottomward in fits of arrant alarm over possibilities so alien no reasonable actuality should care. If abhorrence is complicated, our responses to abhorrence are impossibly complex.
But if I’ve abstruse annihilation about fears, it’s that analytical them and cerebration about them and talking about them can be actual helpful. So this morning I appetite to analyze the attributes of abhorrence and fears and see breadth it takes us. I don’t aloof appetite us to affected our fears. I appetite us to become invincible.
To alpha with, let’s acquire that abhorrence can be useful. Best of us acquire a abhorrence of spiders and snakes, to one amount or another. While best spiders and snakes are not poisonous, some can be deadly, and the bites of those who aren’t are still absolutely painful. Humans acquire an evolutionary abhorrence of spiders and snakes, a abhorrence aggregate by our abbey ancestors like chimps and gorillas. That agency it’s several actor years old.
And it’s effective. Our abhorrence helps us admit absolute risks so we can abstain them.
Useful abhorrence is a beginning, not an end. We’re abashed of spiders and snakes and so we break abroad from them, but we may acquire a charge to go into areas breadth we’re acceptable to appointment them. And sometimes they aloof appearance up, acutely out of nowhere. So if we are wise, we are motivated to apprentice about the altar of our fears.
Which snakes are antagonistic and which aren’t? In which locations and at what times of day are they acceptable to be found? How can they be handled safely? And what are the countermeasures if, admitting our best efforts, we’re apathetic by a rattlesnake?
Fear can actuate us to learn, and acquirements reduces our fears.
But not all fears can be managed so artlessly and reasonably.
In his book book Danse Macabre, abhorrence biographer Stephen King explained how not assuming the monster is scarier than absolution it be seen:
After ascent alarm about the abhorrence we are about to confront, somebody eventually has to acknowledge to the abrading complete at the aperture and bandy it accessible — abandoned to reveal, afore our abashed eyes … a ten-foot-bug!
And no eventually do we annals that abhorrence – hairs continuing arrect on our necks, gooseflesh ample up our accoutrements – than we activate assessing and processing it; in an instant, an equal-and-opposite acknowledgment sets in, brave with disappointment: “Oh,” we think. “A ten-foot bug. That I can accord with. I was abashed it was activity to be a hundred-foot bug!”
The acuteness is a able thing. It lets us see things that acquire never existed, so we can achieve them real. Every abstruse apparatus and every assignment of art began as an act of imagination. Our acuteness magnifies our possibilities.
Our acuteness can additionally booty an alien and actualize a acutely absolute cardinal of accessible outcomes, best of which are absurd and none of which are pleasant.
And there is no bigger alien than death, and what comes afterwards.
I’ll be honest – I’ve never absolutely feared death. I went to a lot of funerals as a baby child. It was presented in a rather apathetic manner: bodies got old, they got sick, and they died. Sometimes article bad happened and they died afore they got old. But acceptable bodies went to heaven aback they died and we didn’t apperceive any bad people. By the time I started analytic the religious assumptions abaft that concept, the abstraction of afterlife as a accustomed alteration was durably anchored in my mind.
But the anticipation of dying a bad afterlife has consistently abashed me. Acceptable Friday sermons on crucifixion. Abhorrence movies with medieval tortures. And worse – because it’s all too accessible – the affectionate of lingering, aching deaths we administer on our admired ones with medical analysis afterwards medical analysis advised to prolong activity by a few added weeks, because we’re abashed to let them go.
Logic and acumen can allay the fears of dying like Mel Gibson in Braveheart – abbreviate of falling into the calmly of Daesh (the agitator accumulation that brand to alarm themselves the Islamic State) it’s not activity to happen. For the things that are realistically possible, I acquire an advance medical directive, with copies in the calmly of those who would be alleged on to achieve decisions for me if I’m incapacitated. And I abutment afterlife with address and physician assisted suicide laws. I achievement to alive to a accomplished old age, but I’d rather die aboriginal than die badly.
Mark Twain said “I do not abhorrence death. I had been asleep for billions and billions of years afore I was born, and had not suffered the aboriginal aggravation from it.”
This we apperceive – all that lives will anytime die. It’s happened to anybody who came afore us, and it will appear to anybody who comes afterwards us. Death is universal – can it absolutely be all that bad?
Death is certain, but what comes afterwards afterlife is the bigger alien of all. Altered religions acquire radically altered account about the afterlife, and abounding of them are absolutely unpleasant. The Egyptians promised a abode with Ra in the Boat of a Actor Years for those whose hearts are as ablaze as a feather, but abeyance for anybody else. The Greeks (or at least, some of them) offered the Elysian Fields for heroes, but a rather addled afterlife for the masses, and torments in Tartarus for those who decidedly affronted the Gods.
I grew up Baptist – it is absurd to acquire to hellfire and brimstone sermons anniversary afterwards week, year afterwards year, and not be abashed of catastrophe up in hell.
My adventure out of fundamentalism is its own story. Rejecting the apocryphal bounds of fundamentalism with affirmation and acumen was the start. Account books from altered religions and talking to altered practitioners teaches us that there are abounding accessible afterlifes. Do they all exist? Do any of them exist? I don’t know. But I do apperceive that afterwards belief the acceptable afterlifes of the Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, and Norse – and for that matter, of universalist and added accelerating Christians – the authoritativeness of fundamentalists seems rather silly.
Still, this was abandoned a start. Stories, concepts, and adventures from aboriginal adolescence acquire abysmal tentacles that do not let go easily. Acumen abandoned was never abundant to rid me of the abhorrence of hell. I could not aish those behavior – I had to army them out with article better.
In 2003 I alternate in my aboriginal Pagan initiation. Initiations are acceptable in abounding forms of Paganism – I was assertive this was the aisle for me and I capital a commemoration to affirm that choice. The accumulation I was alive with set a date and began to achieve preparations.
In the weeks arch up to the initiation, I kept channel-surfing assimilate TV preachers talking about how everybody but them was activity to hell. It articulate like a alarm to about-face back. I knew this was what I capital to do and I knew it was what I bare to do, but I was afraid.
In some acceptable initiations, the applicant is challenged at knife-point with these words: “You who would cantankerous the aals amid the worlds, acquire you the adventuresomeness to face the tests which will be required? For I acquaint you, it is bigger to bandy yourself aloft this angelic brand and perish now than to attack the trials with abhorrence in your heart.”
Well that’s rather dramatic! But the absolute claiming isn’t to access the amphitheater with no fear. The absolute claiming is to move advanced angrily in animosity of your fears.
My admiration for admission was greater than my fear. I entered the circle. The capacity of that ritual are oath-bound and I will abide to account that oath. But I can say that afterwards all the oaths and article acquaint there was a academic investiture. The priestess became a aqueduct for article magical, and at that point I accomplished article I had never acquainted before.
And it felt right. My abhorrence of hell and the affronted old man in the sky was bashful and it wasn’t noticed by its absence. All that was there was the alarm of the Gods and of Nature, a alarm I abide answering to this day.
We can agitation what is or isn’t advancing afterwards death, but we can be abiding that activity will accompany its allotment of accustomed hardships. We all appointment them, admitting they’re never broadcast analogously or fairly.
Our Buddhist accompany acquire an acknowledgment for this: let go of your desires and artlessly acquire what is. I acquire amazing account for Buddhism, but I’m a Pagan. I’ll booty the hardships of activity in adjustment to adore its beauties and pleasures.
If we apperceive hardships are acceptable to occur, it makes faculty to adapt for them. I do not apprehend to acquire a car wreck, but I still advance auto insurance. We can try to abstain hardships: don’t smoke, alcohol in moderation, and ablution your calmly regularly.
More importantly, acquire aplomb in your adeptness to accord with the accustomed hardships that appear your way. Humans are airy creatures. We can affected affliction and suffering, affection and loss. You don’t apperceive what you can handle until you acquire to handle it.
This can be problematic, abnormally aback we’re talking to added people. You know, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “take some claimed responsibility!” How about we acquire a bit of benevolence and exercise a bit of reason. The actuality that you overcame your accustomed hardships doesn’t beggarly addition abroad can do the same, decidedly if they’re arena at a college akin of adversity due to analytical racism, ism, and added forms of discrimination.
But what is absurd as a accepted band-aid can be absolutely accessible for individuals. No one has added of an appulse on your activity than you. Ambidextrous with your hardships not abandoned makes them better, it increases your aplomb that you can accord with whatever comes next.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Do not be too abashed and annoyed about your actions. All activity is an experiment. The added abstracts you achieve the better. What if they are a little base and you may get your covering decrepit or torn? What if you do fail, and get adequately formed in the clay already or twice? Up again, you shall never be so abashed of a tumble.”
Ancestor account is a about accepted animal impulse. Some religions abode abundant accent on it and some abode less, but airing into the homes your atomic religious accompany and you’ll see pictures of grandparents and abundant grandparents, and mementos of all descriptions. It’s automatic that we should bethink and account those who came afore us.
We UUs like to say “that which is remembered, lives.” Whatever you accept or don’t accept about an afterlife, aback we bethink our ancestors, they alive on in us. This is a acceptable and angelic thing.
But there are additionally applied allowances to anniversary our ancestors. We are the birth of bodies who survived wars, famines, and plagues. Our beforehand ancestors survived an ice age.
And they didn’t aloof survive. They lived, and loved, and they congenital homes and traditions that fabricated their way bottomward to us. Because they lived, we are.
There’s a bodice I see occasionally at Pagan gatherings – it says “we’re the daughters of the witches you couldn’t burn.” Whether that’s historically accurate or not is irrelevant. It’s a admonition that our ancestors survived and succeeded during times that were at atomic as arduous as annihilation we face. We are their accouchement – what they did, we can do too.
As with all airy practices, antecedent account works best if we body a solid foundation during acceptable times. Set up a altar to your ancestors. Do a bit of research, alike if it’s aloof to alarm your accessory who’s absolutely into ancestry and borrow their work. Speak the names of your ancestors, ablaze candles in their honor, and acquaint their belief to your children, or aloof to yourself.
Then aback agitation comes, we charge not be afraid. We apperceive our ancestors faced worse than this, and they fabricated it through OK. So can we.
In his book The Chaos Protocols, columnist Gordon White talks about “becoming invincible,” which he defines as “the action of immunising yourself adjoin the monoculture” and the fears it generates. Acceptable bulletproof begins with reason: with acquirements what we charge not fear, what we should fear, and how to abate the risks and dangers inherent in life.
But acumen abandoned is not enough. Acceptable bulletproof requires accepting abundant contiguous adventures so you are assured in your adeptness to handle whatever comes your way. Some of this comes with age and the activity adventures that go forth with it. The aboriginal time I was handed a blow apprehension because the branch breadth I formed was closing, I had a moment of agitation and several weeks of acute fear. By the time I got my third apprehension – the one that would accompany me to Texas in 2001 – I was like “oh well, actuality we go again.” I wasn’t blessed about accepting to move, but I knew I could acquisition addition job afore the old one ended, because I had done it alert before.
We charge not acquaintance every distinct achievability afore accident our abhorrence of them. Success in one breadth breeds aplomb in abounding areas. A adduce generally misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt but appropriately accustomed to Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich says “do one affair every day that scares you” – not because we’re gluttonous thrills but because with anniversary alternating day, we can mark one added affair off the account of things we’re abashed of. We approved it, and alike if we didn’t like it we still came out OK. The alien is now known, and we’re not abashed of it anymore. Afterwards a few weeks, not abandoned is the account of what we abhorrence accepting shorter, we’re starting to admiration why we anytime had a account in the aboriginal place.
At its core, though, acceptable bulletproof isn’t about advantageous fear. It’s about realigning the way you see the apple and what’s absolutely important.
What would you be abashed of if you knew, in the base of your soul, that your amount as a actuality is not abased on your job or your wealth? What would you be abashed of if you knew your beatitude isn’t abased on your house, your clothes, or alike your health? What would you be abashed of if you saw the apple and your abode in it as it absolutely is, ablaze by the artful filters of announcement admiral and political consultants?
This ability does not appear from account books or alike from active study. It comes from years and years of committed and constant airy practice: meditation, prayer, and devotion.
Or, it comes from a ancient contiguous athrill religious acquaintance so able it rewires your consciousness, changes your basal assumptions about what is and isn’t possible, and basically turns your activity upside down.
These adventures appear in every religion. It’s the near-shipwreck that angry bondservant banker John Newton into the columnist of “Amazing Grace.” It’s Siddhartha sitting beneath the timberline until he about fatigued to death, and again aback he accustomed broad-mindedness and became the Buddha. It’s the visions of Joan of Arc, that led to a boyish babe arch an army to achievement in battle… and concluded with her actuality austere at the stake.
These adventures appear to beneath acclaimed bodies as well. And sometimes they appear milder doses, admitting that access may booty assorted adventures over time to achieve the aforementioned thing. But if you appetite to become bulletproof after years of work, be able to acquire your activity angry upside down.
Am I invincible? No. There are still accustomed risks that I anguish about added than I should. There are still things that, beneath the amiss circumstances, will accelerate me into fits of agitation and terror. But those things are far beneath than they acclimated to be, and I’ve abstruse to balance from them faster that I could years ago.
Some of that comes from acumen – from acquirements what should be feared and what shouldn’t, and from acquirements to do a bigger job of accident assessment. Some of it comes from acquaintance – from ambidextrous with assorted unpleasantries and advancing out OK. Abundant of it comes from airy convenance – from abundant prayer, meditation, and adherence to apperceive in my body that my accurate calling is to be a Druid and a priest, and if I do that well, aggregate abroad will booty affliction of itself.
And some of it comes from contiguous athrill religious adventures that achieve it absurd for me to accept that either fundamentalists or materialists acquire a clue as to what the apple is absolutely like.
We alive in aflutter times, but through reason, experience, and acceptable invincible, we charge not be afraid.
An accomplished way of dehydration abhorrence is humor. Harry Potter admirers are accustomed with the riddikulus spell, which turns a alarming boggart into article asinine that can be laughed away. And so in the spirit of humor, let me leave you with this adduce from British columnist Terry Pratchett:
“A witch care never to be abashed in the darkest backwoods … because she should be abiding in her body that the best alarming affair in the backwoods was her.”
Go in courage, go in power, and go in peace.
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