This morning, while thinking about my own reactions to the various "changes and chances of this mortal life," a thought seeped in at the edges. A small, hopeful, liquid bit of light began to re-hydrate my forest and field.
Over and over, in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, there are two parallel commandments. God's people are repeatedly admonished to "fear not" and to "lay aside all malice and anger." And generally, these commands aren't handed down in times of peace and prosperity, if you know what I mean. Social justice isn't the occasion here. Great victories aren't the setting.
There are many religious traditions which will echo the same thought. Anger and fear are corrosive. They'll eat you alive, usually starting somewhere in the gut.
Today, though, a light begins to shine and spread a little on the fact that these two things - fear and anger - are not really two, but only one. One two-headed monster. One insidious creature, acting as a kind of parasite, propagating, multiplying, ready whenever the conditions are right to show one head or the other, and either head is deadly.
And one defense will be sufficient to slay the creature.
I think the defense is the strength of the light that radiates from a humble and devastatingly childlike trust. I think it's a stubborn, sometimes utterly bull-headed and unshakable insistence that "all is well, and all is well, and all manner of things shall be well," in the face of any temporary circumstances to the contrary. Because that's the truth of time. All circumstances are temporary. The circumstances can never tell us the Truth - not all of it, anyway. The most we can ever get from living in the Now is whatever Now has in it. We must, of course, live in the Now. It's the only place we can ever be. But we need to know that the Now isn't the All.
Why does such trust seem silly to us? Why does it seem weak or naive or insipid? This kind of trust in ultimate Good is, as far as I can see, the difference between "I have a dream" and the equal and opposite, same cause/different reaction, race domination rants. The sure and certain confidence in ultimate Good both opens the eyes of a Mother Teresa and strengthens her hands for the task of bringing this Good to life.
If you believe your circumstances are temporary, but you also believe "that there's some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and its worth fighting for," then you will (repeatedly, stubbornly, deliberately) lay aside the anger that blinds you and the fear that cripples you, and you will fight. You will fight every day of your life, but instead of battling the merely temporary, you will realize that your real battle is "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Such a view saves the warrior from the bitterness of anger, which turns to hatred, and also from immobilizing fear. This kind of trust is no weeny. This sort of confidence is no child's play.
And today I wonder if sunspots or the phases of the moon or some other "energy of the universe" is encouraging us all to think this way. I've seen several quotations on other blogs just today - all pointing to the same thought pattern. Be not afraid, the whole of the universe seems to be saying. Be not afraid.
Here's one that really struck me.
(Be not afraid.)
(click on the picture to go to the rest of the article)
About the adoption of his children, Caviezel was frank about his feelings, saying the challenge "completely terrified" him at first. "Yes, you do feel fear, you do feel scared but you have no idea the blessings that you have coming to you if you just take a chance on faith."
Caviezel said, "When you live in holiness, when you really try to stop sinning, you become braver. You become more courageous, you become a man of your word. You become a man of conviction that you're not willing to sell out and you're really a true knight in shining armour."
(Be not afraid.)
Happiness in the midst of deepest sorrow is not silly. Calm in the face of chaos is not evidence either of blindness or naiveté. And the reason is the reality of ultimate Good. "Everything is temporary. That don't excuse nothin'." Most of all, it don't excuse taking the coward's way out. Instead of anger or fear, it's the gutsy thing to take up the shining courage of simple trust. That's how we kill the snake.