November 18th, 2013

goban

The Litany Against Fear

So, the litany against fear goes like this:

 

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

 

And here’s my attempt at an interpretation of its meaning.

I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

    While it is a natural thing to feel fear and be afraid, I will not give in to it and become the fear. Becoming the fear means to revert to the basest instincts that we have, usually fight-or-flight, and then one’s actions are only concerned with survival. There is none of the higher reasoning left. This can be expanded slightly by adding another quote from Dune, from the scene where Paul meets the Gom Jabbar. The Reverend Mother says,


“You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap. There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”


    We’re talking, fundamentally, about a different level of perception. Your existence is not about yourself, it is about survival of your species.

I will face my fear. I will allow it to pass over me and through me.

I will accept that I am afraid. This means recognizing that emotions are a part of one’s self, and not refusing to acknowledge a single part of one’s identity. I will look to my fear with compassion and kindness, for it is a part of me. Looking to any part of me with less than compassion of kindness is much like hating myself, and that’s just not productive.
    I will allow my fear, as an emotion, to wash through my body and run its course, so that the hormonal and nervous systems in my body do not get overworked or damaged by unnatural resistance to a normal behavior. I will also allow the fear to talk to the brain, so I can communicate with the fear, examine where it came from and, if necessary, figure out why it came up, so that the origin may be extirpated if necessary.

And when the fear has gone, I will turn the inner eye on its path. Where it was, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Just like death, fear leaves a mark on the ego, on the self. A person can end up damaged, responding only to the behaviors implanted by the fear response, instead of responding to the actual situations with which they are faced. 
    Once the fear is done, and the situation is resolved, I will examine my self, and realize that my self is still there, and did not get damaged by the fear. I will realize that the fear, like the tide on the beach, came and went, and like the ocean, I am unmoved by the tide.
    Thus, I will reinforce the behavior, so that next time, this is even easier, because I have even more trust in how this works, until it becomes an automatic response.

 

This is a deep and powerful mantra, which hints at tremendous self-control and self-awareness. As always, the first step is awareness.

Mirrored from Seven steps.

goban

Learning and fear

“Life is going to present to you a series of transformations. And the point of education should be to transform you. To teach you how to be transformed so you can ride the waves as they come. But today, the point of education is not education. It’s accreditation. The more accreditation you have, the more money you make. That’s the instrumental logic of neoliberalism. And this instrumental logic comes wrapped in an envelope of fear. And my Ivy League, my MIT students are the same. All I feel coming off of my students is fear. That if you slip up in school, if you get one bad grade, if you make one fucking mistake, the great train of wealth will leave you behind. And that’s the logic of accreditation. If you’re at Yale, you’re in the smartest 1% in the world. […] And the brightest students in the world are learning in fear. I feel it rolling off of you in waves. But you can’t learn when you’re afraid. You cannot be transformed when you are afraid.”
- Junot Diaz, from a recent speech at Yale
If you spend more than an hour with me in person, the chances of me mentioning Dune increase asymptotically. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that this quote brought to mind two quotes from Dune, and here they are.
Muad’Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It’s shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad’Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
And the other one, well, I wrote a blog entry about..
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
    I hadn’t really thought of connecting these two before, even though to me they are some of the most important quotes in the entire work.
    It does make sense though. It takes a fundamental trust in oneself to learn, and when you are afraid, you are basically robbed of that fundamental trust. So if Junot is right, and he probably is, since he lives in the educational system, there is a deep flaw in the system which is in fact making it harder for students to learn.
    When a system grows, sometimes a madness creeps in. Like Terry Pratchett wrote, “[a dangerous thought is that] while all important enterprises need careful organization, it is the organization that needs organizing, rather than the enterprise.” So, after a while, it’s less about the students learning and more about the grades, and then it’s more about making sure the teachers do their work. But how do you make sure teachers do work? Ah-ha! There’s a thought. Let’s organize THAT. And the students? Well, they’re in school, they’ll learn, right? And so it begins. Subtly. Insidiously.
    As students, resisting that pressure is very difficult, but if you can, if you’re able to put it out of your mind, if you’re able to recognize it and not let it crush you, then you can truly learn, truly get an education. Truly be transformed, as Junot puts it. And the result will always be a marvel.

Mirrored from Seven steps.