Living or dying with fear

I remember hearing sometime before a tale of an animal community who was fearful of being attacked by members of another tribe. So their leaders set out to find a solution to their predicament. After several failed attempts they happened upon the notion of enlisting a lion to join their group. They had not lived with a lion before, however when they had heard a lion roar the consequence was that they were afraid and dared not intrude upon the sanctuary of the lion.

With some precautions they were able to safely meet with a lion and together discuss their plight. The lion agreed with their proposal and made arrangement to move into their community. Afterward as the lion exercised the established routine of walking around the outer edges of the territory and roaring, residents of the community were reassured that they were now safe from any attack. And so they rested with confidence that the lion could successfully defend them.

Except for one resulting concern. In the community there lived a lamb, and whenever the lion roared the lamb was terrorized. After trying to adjust to the presence of the lion, the lamb met with the leaders of the community and explained to them the problem. The leaders therefore explained the problem to the lion who then sought diligently to reassure the leaders and the lamb that no harm would come to the residents of the community. The lamb had no reason to be afraid of the lion.

Following the meeting each time they heard the lion roar all the residents of the community felt safe, however because of its nature the lamb could not keep from feeling afraid. No amount of reassurance could change the nature of the lamb to fear the lion. And none in the community wanted the lion to keep from roaring. So the problem appears to be irreconcilable. By nature the lion roars and by nature the lamb is frightened because of it.

The tale is intended to evoke contemplation and prompt discussion that will lead us to find a solution to this fictitious circumstance. Yet the circumstance itself is awkwardly familiar to us all. We live in a world that is becoming more and more well known to us. And what we are learning is that some people by their nature have been thus far in the cycle unable to develop a manner of coexisting with others. Because of concerns about protection and survival and independence and …well the list of reasons that are keeping people apart is inexhaustible. Something that seems to one person to be a minor consequence to another seems to be an essential component.

All of us are uncomfortable with the distress that results from fear. And all of us reflect on how the world would be more stable if we lived without a reason to be afraid. One place to begin in finding a solution to this dilemma is to recognize that fear is a natural consequence of being a creature in the world. Because of limitations of knowledge and nature every earthly creature is vulnerable to an attack that can cause injury, suffering, and death. All of us can loose something valuable and important to us. Fear is the result of knowing this.

So no matter how much we work at it we will never be able to live without fear. That is unless fear persuades us to die, unless we believe we will benefit from dying, unless we believe dying will repair the damage we have done by the selfish choices we have made while living in the earth, unless we think dying will bring us peace and prosperity. And why would we believe this?

Why would anyone believe that because of selfish choices made while living in the earth dying would bring them peace and prosperity?

Why am I depressed?

Many philosophers have verbalized what all of us already know: human distress originates because of the chasm between what we can imagine and what we can accomplish. Human creatures have the capacity to imagine perfection, a reality that provides the individual with everything conceived to bring the highest measure of fulfillment and satisfaction. All of us want our unique one-time experience in the earth to be the best it can be. The human predicament exists because our capability to attain perfection is inferior to our capability to imagine perfection.

We spend our energy and resources reaching out from the deficiency of our existence toward the vision of what we believe will make us totally happy and satisfied. Because of our finite limitations of knowledge and time we must make decisions based on the range of information available to us. This library of knowledge is composed of both our personal experience and what we can learn from the experience of others. Yet in the dynamic of making choices another powerful influence is at work. This influence is the content of dream.

Dream arises from a source within the individual. It is a product of mystery—how the human spirit relates to some universal consciousness. This universal consciousness seems to be a foundational awareness, an innate perception of the human potential—the manner in which the human creature can fully express emotions and fulfill desires; the possibility of fashioning a community free of violence, deception, competition, and fear. These concepts are generated by the creature’s intersection with the physical world composed of other creatures and creations. The unavoidable process of encountering the external things that are present in the world prompts the individual to identify beauty and to feel pleasure as well as to know disgust and pain. From this initial exposure dream is constructed. And no matter how distressed and defeated we may feel, dream is never subdued.

Depression occurs when we seriously focus on the difference between what we are experiencing and what we are dreaming. Depression therefore is a natural product of being perceptive about how we are living in the earth. Before we are experienced enough to discover that what we imagine can never be attained, we are content. However the moment we recognize deficiency in our physical reality we become depressed. We may remain optimistic and may continue to believe that eventually we will attain what we are striving for, yet deep inside our being because we do not have it in the present we stay depressed.

The fact of human depression has given rise to extreme concern about its presence and impact upon human being. This concern has produced professional determination that depression is harmful. We hear all around us that depression is something to be feared and avoided. Thus many methods of eliminating or repressing depression have been promoted. However because of the naturally occurring phenomenon of the inevitable difference in what we dream and what we experience in physical reality, is it reasonable to presume that depression is a bad thing?

While it is true that much human behavior is negatively aggravated by depression, it is the difference in what we dream and what we experience that leads us to hopelessness and despair. It is not human depression itself that causes humans to harm themselves because they have concluded their life in the earth is too much of a burden to be continued. This condition is caused by the human predicament—the inability to achieve what we imagine.

Maybe fearing human depression and working to eliminate it is not the most beneficial response for us. Maybe finding a way to process human depression is the natural progression for us to pursue. Maybe human depression serves a mysterious purpose that helps the human creature continue to be properly orientated to the universal consciousness that informs us of the human potential. Maybe being properly oriented to the universal consciousness is an essential awareness for the human in journeying toward the future. Maybe this orientation alone will enable us to experience in a constituted reality the content of dream even when our physical reality denies it.

The fact that nothing can subdue dream is a profoundly important and empowering observation. And this knowledge is a fundamental benefit for the human creature living in the earth. It is dream that rescues us from the human predicament. It is dream that prevents our lives from being an empty wasteland. And it is depression that not only keeps us aware of dream but also prevents us from being distracted from our destiny—to anticipate the potential of human being, to be perfectly satisfied and fulfilled.

The height of egotism

A disturbing and divisive egotism is present in the presumption of privilege displayed by persons who interpret the character of circumstances as indications of divine judgement.

Indiscriminate and random occurrences whereby certain individuals receive benefit are sometimes seen as a divine affirmation of self worth and a reward for moral behaviors. Individuals who regard such incidents in this way also view disruption and turmoil that pledge others in the earth as signs of divine punishment for mistakes.

A large mass of people in the earth struggle to survive. They do not know what will happen to them the following day, or sometimes even the following moment. They have no resources. They are at the mercy of those more powerful who determine what happens around them. They have no means of preparing for the future, of improving their situations. They live in misery and hopelessness. Their existence depends upon the generosity of others who share what is extra, surplus items like food and clothing and health care provisions.

Conditions that position some individuals to be more successful in maneuvering through the climate of the culture wherein they are born may be understood as a sign of divine favor, things like the circumstance of their birth, their intellectual capability, the class of their ethnicity, and the opportunities that these conditions create to them. Some of these persons who subsequently enjoy freedom from financial distress and from struggles associated with poverty and hunger and violence congratulate themselves for earning a measure of divine privilege because of their _____________?

And this is where the logic of this argument fails. These persons may site some religious text as a basis for their comfort and well being, yet persons much more religious than they will be found among the poor and rejected. And where is the substance of the claim that merely being born into a stable and prosperous context in itself justifies the assumption that one is blessed with divine favor while most others are doomed to despair because of a judgement from the same supreme origin?

Are these and other similar arguments and subjective speculations for claiming divine favor generated because of a fear of being disenfranchised, made vulnerable by change? Persons who hold this opinion may fear losing their valued standing in the world community. These persons could see themselves as competing with the others, those who possess little or nothing of value. These persons have everything to loose while the impoverished others have nothing to loose. And so to relieve themselves of the character of being a neighbor the blessed few may blame God for their privileged positioning. “Since God determined it to be this way then the miserable condition of others is not my problem.”

But really, is it simply a matter of egotism, that some among the billions of people in the earth think they deserve to be well off because they are more important than the others? And so they keep what they have and keep trying to get more.

Everyone needs a safe place

What would you do if the place where you lived was unsafe? How much would you risk to move to a place that was not dangerous? If your family was suffering from fear because of threatening violent conditions, how would you respond to their fear?

The world we live in seems to have become increasingly dangerous. A vast majority of the population in the earth lives in distressing conditions. And it seems that persons are more than ever willing to take enormous risks in order to be in a place that is safer than what they have known before. Even if there is no certainty that moving to another place will be successful and will indeed provide any relief, because of the intensity of their distress people are setting out into the unknown if only for the hope of a better situation.

Poverty, hunger, rampant violence resulting from armed conflict associated power struggles, these conditions create danger and distress for billions of people in the earth. If you were living with one of these situations threatening you and your family, to what extent would you go to find a safe place? Would you risk injury and death to cross a border or an ocean to enter into a place that seemed safer? Would you trust someone to guide you to a safe place after giving them most of the meager resources you could gather for your journey? Would you dare to travel across unknown territory, dare to endure unknown hardship, and if you survived the journey dare to enter into an unknown country, just for the hope of finding a safe place?

If you survived the journey some people would complain about you and about the alarming numbers of other immigrants moving across the globe. Some people would condemn your illegal intrusion into their country and into their neighborhood. What would you do then? How would you respond to their indignation and insults?

Before you join in with the conversation of those who complain and condemn, ask yourself what you would do if the circumstance of immigrants was your own. Before you become disturbed by the arrival into your neighborhood of persons who look and speak differently from you, consider for a moment yourself in their situation. These are human beings, persons just like you, and these are persons who have risked injury and death because of the danger in the place that was before their home, the place of their birth, the place where their ancestors lived and died, the place where they once tried without the promise of success to survive. It was not their choice to move away from home. Because of disruption and failing resources, they had to move. It was necessary because they wanted, they needed to find a safe place.

When we become aware of actions and inactions in the international community that create danger and distress for persons–conditions that are beyond the control of masses of innocent people–then we understand the plight of immigrants and others who are yet not able to move away to a safe place. And rather than being angry toward them we become compassionate, and we are amazed by their courage. And we recognize there is only one difference in them and us: we are safe and they are not.

What would you do if the place where you lived was unsafe? How much would you risk to move to a place that was not dangerous? If your family was suffering from fear because of threatening violent conditions, how would you respond to their fear?

The Hebrew fault of Prophet Muhammed

For centuries serious scholars and clerics in the search of Islam have struggled to find a way to reconcile the teaching of Muhammed that has come down to us in the Quran with proponents of a peaceful religion for Muslims to embrace. Their labors have proven to be futile, just as has attempts by diligent persons who have sought to reconcile the teaching of Jesus with the Hebrew presentation of Jehovah found in the Old Testament, the sacred scriptures of the Jews. In both incidences finding a satisfactory solution is simply impossible.

While it is apparent that Hebrew narratives and those of Muhammed both confess to a perception of a supreme deity whose attributes toward human creatures include fleeting fierce anger and enduring loving kindness, however in both cases these descriptions relate only to those who are considered to be true worshipers and faithful followers. Persons judged to be outside this category exist in a strikingly different relationship to Jehovah and Allah. Their circumstances are desperate indeed.

Whether prior to publishing supportive sacred writings or thereafter, the behaviors of both the Hebrew people and Muhammed testify to the stark distinction between those favored by God and the outsiders. Stories of the Hebrew conquest of Canaan describe divine directives ordering Hebrew people to kill men, women, children, and animals and to steal the possessions and territories of pagans. Likewise, Muhammed, after being befriended by three Jewish tribes near Medina, eventually subdued his saviors by honoring the surrender of two tribes and beheading more than 700 men and boys and distributing the women and girls of the third to his once destitute band of emerging warriors.

Studying the sacred writings of Islam, one will discover that beyond the consoling and comfortable privileged positioning of those favored by Allah lies Judaism’s declaration of an undeniably different prescription for the destiny of pagans and infidels. In the ninth chapter of the Quran, which discusses the concept of Repentance, Muhammed describes the fate of apostates, unbelievers.

9.5. When the Sacred Months have passed, kill the unbelievers wherever you find them. And capture them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayers, and pay the alms, then let them go their way. Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

And in the fourth chapter there is an encouragement for the efforts of those who respond to Muhammed’s directive:

4.74. Let those who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the cause of Allah. Whoever fights in the cause of Allah, and then is killed, or achieves victory, We will grant him a great compensation.

No one in the field of Islam has challenged this violent and compelling directive of Muhammad. Jesus, a product of the faith of the Hebrew people, reinterpreted in a spectacularly consistent way the identity of Jehovah for the Jewish community of his day. However, there has not been a similar mediation of the teaching of Muhammed. A successful intervention within the structure of Islam that replaces the violent rhetoric of conquest with the counsel to love your enemy as well as your neighbor would be a valuable critique that could transform the barbaric nature inherent in Islam into a civilized way of composing divine as well as human relationship.

But then human nature testifies that counsel alone does not ensure respectful coexistence. We act on what we believe; everything else is just religious talk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s