Friday, January 27, 2006

No fear...good morale; hit the target... Much fear...

It is, I think, what separates some people from other people...

There's a guy at work who is an avowed "Christian conservative" (but when pressed on elements of fundamentalism and biblical literalism he doesn't go there- he evidently is aware that arguing evolution versus creationism is a no win situation with an engineer). On economic issues, he's the right wing mirror image of the Khmer Rouge. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

Christian conservatives like to say "belief" and its cognates a lot, and hold "beliefs" sacred; I think as far as beliefs go, a Shunryu Suzuki "belief in nothing" which is more of an aware constant watching, than a belief in a specific anything or nihilism than any enunciation of a set of "believing points" of a faith that are espoused to differentiate one sects from another.

In a lunchtime discussion with this avowed Christian conservative, and somehow the conversation turned around to fear. This Christian conservative's "belief" was that "fear can be used to motivate" people, and that among other things the Roman Empire's use of fear in the population and army was a good use of fear.

I, of course opined otherwise; fear destroys the morale of organizations (as is well known). If you are afraid of getting hit with the baseball, you'll never hit the home run. Troops going into battle aren't inspired to be afraid; they're taught to just kill. Moreover, accounts of Stalin's Great Terror indicate a populace that was sleepless, unproductive, and drinking to excess to deal with the stress of the mass purges, arrests, and violence.

An interesting side question is whether or not this fear expressed as government-whipped-up terrorism scares has a deleterious effect on productivity. I bet you a dime that outside of all the horrors of airline security lines, it does; that is to say, the fact that this rents space in our collective head means that time and attention is lost on things that are more important and profitable. And that the guys in charge just don't give a shit about that, and if they do they probably actually like the lost productivity. But I digress.

This Christian conservative asked me if I was ever afraid.

And then it hit me: the answer was "when I was a kid" because within recent memory (oh, say the last 15 years) no siree, I can't remember being fearful or terrorized. Worried, yes, of course. Angry at times, yes. But fearful?

Looking up fear in the dictionary, I get:

A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger

And nope. I haven't had this feeling. Not in watching movies. Not driving. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. Not with a fox. Not with a get the picture.

The Heart of Perfection Wisdom Sutra says
(in the Mt. Baldy Zen center translation):

Indeed, there is nothing to be attained; the Bodhisattva relies on Prajna Paramita with no obstacle in the mind. No obstacle, therefore no fear. Far beyond upside down views, at last Nirvana. Past, present, and future, all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, rely on Prajna Paramita and therefore reach the most supreme enlightenment.

This thought has (obviously) been ruminated over in my head for a few hours, and I don't want to go down an ego-trip superhighway here, but I had a feeling that was like discovering, after thinking you couldn't compete at sports, that you were absurdly talented at one aspect of one sport far beyond those of your peers.

Now yeah, I know - and have written here- that this practice will, if practiced with constancy and earnestness will lead to a transcendance of suffering. And I've got a long long way to go.

But still...

There's a whole bunch of people, trained in a Pavlovian way to respond to fear in a certain way. Huge swaths of Christianity - especially of the conservative kind- are predicated on the existence of a gangster deity who demands tribute on pain of eternal damnation, and who further stipulates that nobody on his own can do anything but consign himself to eternal damnation. And furthermore, it's a matter of belief as to whether you've escaped eternal damnation or not; this can not but, in my opinion, make one fearful, and therefore ineffective at moral development in practice.

And I'm not like that.

Now note, all Christians don't have this experience, and among those that do, most would likely deny such an experience; it is nothing but shameful in our culture to admit you're afraid (one wonders than to whom appeals to fear are directed if nobody really is afraid...?)

But I'm saying it's really possible to dispel fear, and be the fearless real deal, rather than simply whistling past the graveyard.

It is intriguing to me that this may pose an opportunity both politically and socially; one would think that this living in fear constantly is a highly unnatural state expending energy uselessly, and short of a Stalin-like reign of terror is unlikely to be continue on its own, and that with "no fear" as a meme permeating the society, we can dispel the culture of fear.

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