Fear of Death, or love of Life? Your choice

The Seven Faces of Fear: Part Seven


And so we’ve reached the last level, one which has some fascinating connections to the very first. Whereas the first level of fear relates to core survival, literal physical extinction, the last level deals with the disposition of our non-physical being. Every culture in the world has an answer to the question: what becomes of us after death? And the flip side of that questions speaks to the first level: what were we before we were born?

Think of the countless billions of pages of print attempting to address this question, a question that cannot be ultimately answered. We simply don’t have the data. We may be the only species with conscious awareness that we are going to die. That our vital flesh will one day return to the base clay.

And what have we done? Created a vast spectrum of theories, beliefs, fables, songs, prayers, and practices around this question. Now, if you are devout, you may believe that your “way” is the correct answer. And of course, you may be right. But can you hold the possibility that more than one religion or philosophy may be “correct”?

This concept is difficult for most people. And because the cost of being “wrong” is so high, think of the vast amount of terminal, existential fear held in check by the belief that “their” answer is the right one. Fear. Raw, raging, fear. Terror that their immortal soul might be at risk if they get some tiny part of the ritual chain or belief system wrong. And how many wars have resulted from people desperate to belief that THEY, and they alone, have the ear of God..?

I remember speaking to a young man on Hollywood boulevard. A rough-looking gentleman who was selling copies of “Watchtower,” the Jehovah’s Witness magazine. I spoke with him, and he tried to convince me that his particular interpretation of Christianity was the only protection against Hellfire. I didn’t try to change any of his beliefs, but the very fact that I didn’t agree with him was causing him serious stress. He grew angry. Threatening. And I suddenly realized that I was dealing with a gentleman with…shall we say a familiarity with the ugly side of the legal system? And that he had locked his criminal tendencies, anger and violence behind a door of dogma? That when I failed to agree with him, it created the tiniest crack in that armor, the only thing keeping him on the straight and narrow?

That’s exactly what I think. And I extracted myself from the conversation as gently as possible, leaving him to cast a (rather sorrowful) “you’ll burn in Hell!” after me.

It would be impossible to estimate how many lives have been destroyed by the fear relating to our inevitable deaths, and the myriad religious and spiritual traditions that attempt to channel that fear so that we can live our lives with dignity and grace. Remember that fear competes with love for control of our hearts. All major world spiritual traditions say much the same at the core: do no evil. Love one another. Have faith. Do good works. Connecting with this core, without fear, frees us to experience life as a wonderful adventure.

This is your legacy, your birthright. Just being willing to examine the effects of fear in your life reduces its power. Be one of the few willing to stand in the light of truth.

Walk in the Light…

Someone needs to control your life. Why not you?

I maintain several mailing lists for different purposes. One is a strictly “Lifewriting for writers” list, and for that one, I created a “Ten Commandments of Writing” series. As I go back through my blog postings, culling for my autobiography, I’m pulling out everything that seems essential to my world view and life experience. And this one hits home. I’m going to take each of these ideas and extrapolate them to all three arenas of life, even though they deal most directly with MY mental/career aspect:

1) Thou Shalt Write

This is one of The Ten Commandments of Writing. Hmmm…the 10 commandments of writing? Why not?

I have so much fun waking up every morning and wondering what I’m going to say to all of you. This time I’m going to organize the next ten days to create a ‘ten commandments of writing.’ In other words, if I had to create a system for my own son to follow on his path to literary excellence, what would I have him do? This is an excellent thought experiment, because it asks me to boil down the most important things I’ve learned over forty years of writing.

Your exercise is to adapt each and every one of these to whatever you find important. For fun, I’ll adapt it to the other two major areas of my life: martial arts/yoga and Family.

And the first and most vital one is: thou shalt write. A writer isn’t someone who publishes, or makes herself wealthy, or wins awards, or gets movies. A writer is someone who writes. You have to grasp how important this is. In every field I know of, the most excellent people practice their skills five days a week minimum. The very best are polishing every single day.

There is a shining star within you, a flaming beacon of creativity that roared like a forest fire when you were a child, and has doubtless dimmed a bit since then. But if you write every day, you can re-open a channel to that sacred and intimate space.

I will repeat here and now the advice I was given, advice I’ve passed on to thousands of writers. It is a combination of the advice given by Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury:

1) Write a story a week, or a story every other week.
2) Finish what you write.
3) Put it in the mail, keep it in the mail until it sells.
4) Don’t re-write except to editorial requests.

If you will do this, and read obsessively, you are darned near doomed to succeed.

If you applied the “Secret Formula” can you see the goal? The need for faith that your actions will bring pleasure? The constant action? And the value of writing with joy and gratitude (Bradbury speaks of writing the first draft in a blind heat of passion, like running naked through the id-jungle).

Now let’s apply this to the other two arenas:

Body: Modern civilization broke the connection between caloric output and input, something that has existed for all human beings throughout all history. It’s hardly a surprise that obesity plagues us. But the solution is painfully simple: every day you eat, you should move. If you ask yourself how much and what kind of motion our ancestors required to catch, cultivate or gather the food you are eating, and do even ½ of that daily, you would be in the top 1%, fitness wise. Bend, twist, stretch, lift, walk, lift and sweat every day. Re-connect that body-mind link.

Family: There is no such thing as “quality time.” There is only time. You can’t choreograph peak moments with your kids, so much as be there for them, with them, when their peak moments occur. What you invest your time and energy in demonstrates your values. Your husband, wife or partner needs you THERE. Touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight…all of these ways of “being there” need to be covered, not just the ones YOU are most comfortable with.

And all relationships begin with your relationship with yourself. Every day, you have to enter the mindful state, the inner-flow state, and work to dissolve illusion.
Body, Mind, or Spirit…connect every day.

This is what our ancestors evolved to do, only they did it as a natural part of living. In this world, we have the luxury of not paying attention…and we’re paying for it in our happiness, our health, and our intimacy.

Someone needs to be in control of your life.

Why not you?