The Only Thing We Have To Fear; Happy Thanksgiving

I haven’t written on this website for a while for several reasons. Mostly I have been writing a fantasy novel for 8-11 year olds (or thereabouts) where themes that I have discussed in this blog are the subtext, but without any Buddhist, Zen or really scientific jargon. That’s the point of fiction; you explore new things in a way that is free and open, using intuition and imagination.

Also, I went to do research and visit friends and family in Paris.

Then a month later of course the horror of ISIL in Paris happened.

That was sad and disgusting and tragic, but what really got to me was the irrational reaction of so many people here in the USA (and somewhat elsewhere, of course): paranoia, xenophobia, racism, perverted values, willingness to destroy innocent lives; the wholesale and obvious caving in to the whims of evil deeds perpetrated by a handful of people.

I don’t usually discuss current events in this blog. The ethical dimensions of “no separation,” the teachings of Buddhism about compassion that I have discussed, say it all. Don’t get sucked in by greed and anger and you will probably get it right most of the time.

Fear is greed. Now, I am not talking about the rapid heart beat and even the involuntary jumping and screaming that might occur if you are surprised watching a suspenseful film, when an earthquake happens, or if you are indeed attacked by nefarious forces including bad guys (or a leopard). These reactions are pretty hard wired; yes, it may be that with deep enough enlightenment you can transcend these reactions, but they do serve an evolutionary purpose (that leopard).

And I am not talking about even more prolonged, perfectly legitimate reactions and concerns that can degrade into fear. You are concerned if someone dear to you is sick. It needn’t be that you are afraid for that person, you just would like them not to suffer. You miss a close friend when she dies. It needn’t become fear of death. You would rather be careful than deal with the pain of third degree burns. You aren’t afraid, it’s just that third degree burns really, really, really suck. You do not want the consequences that may occur if your drink and drive. You’d rather not die just yet, so when you are sick you dive in and you take medicine or undergo surgery or stop smoking or change your diet if it will help.

These are not really fears or actions based on fear; they are what a responsible, smart and wise person does.

Being spiritual shouldn’t mean you are dumb or uncaring. Going all Zen and avoiding “picking and choosing,” as the ancient Chan masters implored, means you don’t get attached to your view points, your desires and conditioning, it doesn’t mean you don’t jump in to save a drowning child. Just the opposite; maybe you’d rather not get wet. Maybe you are afraid to get involved, that you will fail. You do it anyway.

Maybe you are afraid. Tough. Do the right thing. That is not picking or choosing.

So, getting back to the terrorists.

If you feel one iota of fear because of the Paris attacks, you are deluded, selfish and you are a terrorist. Unless maybe if you were there and have PTSD. Yep, you are a terrorist in the same sense that you may be a Buddhist. It is your Way, what you believe in, the way of terrorizing and being terrorized. These go hand in had. Nobody terrorized, no terrorists. They lose steam quickly. Why blow yourself up if nobody goes ooh and aah?

I assume nobody reading this made the connection to the Syrian refugees that some of our politicians and it seems many of our countrymen did in the USA; that’s too over the top racist and incoherent for anybody sophisticated enough to find this website. I would think. I would hope.

I mean, the irony of during the season of Thanksgiving Americans getting self righteous about terrorists and genocide is a bit much. We built this country on murder, slavery and deceit! That is not a political statement or opinion, it is historical fact, whatever the Texas school board says.

Anyway, I had reasonable people, citizens of liberal West LA, tell me they were afraid to travel. That terrorism will get us. That Sharia law is coming to a town near you.

In 2013 about 10,000 Americans were killed by drunk drivers in motor vehicle accidents. That is almost three 9/11’s and about 80 Paris attacks. That happens here EACH YEAR. How do we know that is avoidable other than the fact that no one HAS to drive drunk? Because it used to be 25,000 killed by drunk drivers before tougher laws were instituted.

How do we know the reactions we have seen in the USA are racist? We didn’t suddenly round up white guys in pick-ups, even just right wing separatists with pick ups and fertilizer, after Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma, killing some ten times more people than in Paris.

How do we know it is irrational? How many mass shootings in the USA have there been and we wont regulate guns? We hold that constitutionally  sacred, but we pervert the the first amendment to allow for unrestrained money in politics as free speech, and we allow lawless search and seizure because we are afraid of dying by terrorists of a certain kind.

My grandsons are more likely to be killed in school or by gangbangers, white guy mass murderers or homegrown white separatist terrorists, than Islamic terrorists.

Yet we go about our lives.

So if in your head, in your heart, even if you know better than to say it out loud because you are politically, socially and spiritually correct, you are afraid because of the Paris tragedy, don’t rationalize it. Face your delusion. You need to get centered. That fear is greed. It is poison and you make it happen.

(not you, or me, dear reader, we know better; I mean those other guys)

Fear causes pain and suffering for yourself and others.

It will kill and maim.

The terrorists are called that because it is obviously what they are after. Baiting us, edging us on. Making us terrorized. Afraid.

Don’t let terrorism win.

Don’t let your friends, neighbors, people talking at the supermarket or the gym let terrorism win. Stand against terrorism. Stand against irrational fear and loathing.

Be smart. Be strong. I am not a pacifist. Some people may need to be ushered into their next incarnation in a way that makes it that they don’t take a lot of people with them, causing undo pain and stirring up deep and abiding trouble. After all, if we don’t stop them when we can without selling out our values, we are in some way complicit.  The warrior spirit is to protect those who need protecting. Out of compassion, not fear or anger. I thought it appropriate when the Paris cops kicked down the right doors and I am only sorry the police dog was killed. OK, maybe they were a little afraid or angry. I won’t judge. I’m just saying don’t think it HAS to be out of fear and anger and selfishness.

Just like when you don’t drink and drive, you do that to take care of business. To protect yourself and others. You don’t have to think in terms of courage or cowardice.

The decision not to drink and drive does not require fear. Fear is extra.

Fear always is. Sure, in the moment of crisis there will be adrenaline flowing and resulting strong reactions. Shitting yourself, rapid heart beat, breathing shallow and fast, getting blood to the muscles, IQ dropping 20 points, are genetically encoded survival mechanisms that are reasonable and necessary. The reaction feels and looks a bit like fear, so you might be convinced you are afraid, but that is an illusion, a concept, a conceit, something extra. A phantom, a chimera. Such a reaction needn’t be fear and loathing. It is how we living organisms are built. We avoid noxious stimuli. Even single cell organisms do. And they don’t call it fear. They do what needs to be done. We needn’t mentally process that reaction and transform it into ongoing fear. We needn’t give it that name, (name the color, blind the eye) confer on it an intellectual gravitas, reify it, grant it the form and function of fear, then make subsequent decisions based on our manufactured fear, often creating self-fulfilling prophecies and a downward spiral.

We don’t let greed turn caution into a fetish. Fear and loathing is, as they say in Zen, ‘a head on a head.’ It is not needed and it always leads to more harm.

There was that story I told where they gave a hard time to Pyrrho, who taught a kind of early Buddhism in Greece that included non-attachment, when he was chased up a tree by wild dogs. They were wrong. He wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t “attached.” He had no silly notion that the teaching of non-attachment meant that dogs get to say when you had to be dog food. He just didn’t think becoming dog food was best use of his body at that time.

You know, like FDR said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” As a kid I thought that was dumb. Of course we had to fear monsters and bad guys and lightning, right?

Wrong.

So let this be a teachable moment. For ourselves our kids, our friends, the world. We wont succumb to fear. We know better. Deep in our guts, we really do.

 

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