Fear of the new.

(taken with pinhole)

No sabría decir si la rana es un animal de costumbres o si la conducta del mandril es inmoral (¿?). Pero hay quien afirma que hasta las piedras tienen alma y que todo lo que existe tiende a comportarse de alguna manera. Por naturaleza. O más bien por miedo y /o costumbre.

Hablemos de ranas, pulpos,
piedras o gatitos negros, conviene siempre no perder esto de vista.

Es útil (es mano de santo diría yo) para entender los movimientos ajenos y los propios. Lo que hacemos. Lo que harán. Lo que haríamos. Lo que deberíamos hacer. Lo que no. Lo que nos da la gana. Aunque por mucho pie de plomo que le pongamos al asunto… seguiremos ciegos como topos.
Miedosos como avestruces.

¿Sabes? Yo he tenido mucho miedo.
He sido una pequeña pulga, a veces me he enfrentado a él.
Y nunca me he sentido mejor…

M.

 

“In order to really know how you’re doing, I’d ask you how much “new” is in your life. I wouldn’t ask you about good or bad things, but about new ones. For the young people among you, “new” is not such a big deal, because except for symptoms that keep returning, everything is new—the world is still new. For most people above 30, the world starts to look old. Every town is just another town. You’ve seen snow many times, so it’s just snow again. To bring something new, to a life that is usually a repetition of the old, is magical.

Imagine that you meet someone that doesn’t play according to the rules you keep. For example, in a chess game you’re playing with someone that moves his horse in a way that is not allowed for the horse in chess. You tell him this, and he says that according to his rules it’s okay. With that person you won’t be able to communicate in the way you are used to. In chess, you can say that it’s impossible to play with him, and it’s not so important since it’s only chess. But in life, it means that you can’t play with people who don’t play according to your rules. So you’ll meet and “play” only with a limited variety of people. We’re normally trying to meet only people that behave like us. When we meet a person that is strange to us, we try to avoid him because he scares us—we don’t know how to hold onto our old habits in such a relationship. Look at your life and you’ll see that most of the time you behaved in the same way. You had the same relationships again and again with people who were seemingly different people.

Think of people as sitting on an island around which there is the sea of fear. Usually islands are stuck in the same place—Hawaii is always in the same place. But the islands I am talking about are floating and they meet new islands all the time. Each time an island meets another island, fear is arising (or perhaps excitement). Why? Because when you meet people, they tend to look at you as if you were exactly like them. So each time that you’ll be or do something that is new to them, fear will arise. It shows that something new is happening—something that the person doesn’t know how to handle and has to learn what to do with it. Understanding this allows us to look at fear as motivation. If you look at a person as being on an island in a sea of fear, and he is swimming and riding the waves instead of trying to run away or avoid them, you’ll find that he is changing. He is no longer just a floating island.

People are being led by fear through most things in their lives. If I’m a small green island heading my own way and there comes a big blue island, the waves of fear that rise will take me away from that frightening island and from where I was heading. And then, while floating in my new direction, I’ll meet another island, and I’ll be washed by the waves of fear to yet another place. This doesn’t refer only to things that happen around me. For example, most people are doing what they’re doing because it was a less frightening possibility. That is, it was the most convenient possibility since it involved little fear—if at all. (Fear shows that there’s something uncomfortable; something uncomfortable shows that there’s fear in it.) Or let’s say that I’ve found I have a great talent for something. The thought that I’ll have to work and develop this talent scares me, so I’d rather give up. My talent pushed me away from it with the fear that it raised in me.

If we look at the difference between basic potential and actual potential, we’ll see that most of the differences were created by fear. To fulfill my potential means to leave my island and meet other islands, instead of seeing them as too scary for me. Life as an island in the stream of fear means that we’ll encounter fear no matter what we meet. Let’s take for example: an island that longs for love, living comfortably longing for that love. One day a loving island appears and starts creating waves. The island that longed for love realizes that he has to change his life, to give up his habits, his convenience… and his waves of fear push away the love.

Everything we learn that is new is connected to fear. If you learn something that doesn’t scare you, it shows that it doesn’t demand anything from you, and that there’s nothing new in it for you. And then there’s no real use in learning it, as you’ll only be repeating what you already know.

We live our lives trying to run away from fear, living in a way that will keep us safe. Everything we do to guarantee our safety we do with ultimate commitment, like paying the medical insurance. Most of our day is dedicated to holding the structure we built around us, to make sure that it won’t break. So we follow our daily routines—cleaning dishes, cleaning the house, maintaining the same old relationships (whether we want them or not), making sure that we keep our commitments from the past (whether we like them or not), eating the same food, going to our usual places, etc. We leave very little space for new things. Most of us don’t have any time during a day in which something new can happen. Instead, we go on living the same things again and again and again.

If we want a change, we have to be ready to meet fear. I’m sure you think that fear is a big deal. We all believe that fear is a bad thing—too strong for us—and that only very few brave people can overcome it. Of course, it couldn’t be me, since I’m a normal person and fear scares me. Let’s go back to the idea of an island. Imagine that you got stuck on an island, you don’t know how to swim and there are all kinds of animals in the water. Not so far away there’s another island with palm trees. You’re hungry and those dates are just ripe and ready to be eaten. This is the human situation—either you swim or you don’t. Some people never swim and remain hungry all their lives. Some people swim and get eaten by sharks. Some people swim, get to the island and eat, finding one day that the fruits are finished and they have to swim again. It doesn’t matter how many times you already swam—you’ll always have to swim again and meet the fear in the water again. You can’t overcome fear—it will always be there. Each time you go into the water, you’ll know that there are also sharks swimming there. Even if you’ll learn to swim very fast, there’s always the possibility that you’ll meet a shark that swims faster than you. There could also be other hungry animals in the water. And maybe you’ll have a cramp in your leg and you’ll drown. There’s no guarantee that you’ll reach the palm tree. But the other option is to remain the same all the time. Look at most people that grew older this way and you’ll see that their lives are always the same, full of the same things, day after day. It may sound convenient, but if you notice how many chronic conditions they have—which are just getting worse all the time—you’ll see that perhaps it’s not as convenient as it seems. When we swim from one island to another, we leave many things behind us. Some of them are chronic conditions.

There’s a force on the island that keeps telling us all the time to swim. We can call this force curiosity for life. Usually we fight this force because we don’t want to meet the fear in swimming. We don’t let it guide us except in very few moments.

I used to guard my island as if it were the only thing in the world. Today, I don’t mind moving away from it. It’s not that I’m not afraid—I am afraid to swim, and that gives me motivation to swim faster. The fact that I have the experience in swimming doesn’t mean that the sharks won’t catch me. What it does mean is that it’s becoming easier to leave the island.

Swimming means to add something new to our lives—new perceptions, new feelings, new ways of being and sometimes new acts. It revitalizes us and increases our hunger for life.”

Avi Grinberg, 1992

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