Tag Archives: Fear

Rock Climbing

When I was all of thirteen my cousin, her boyfriend, and I went rock climbing in the Santa Monica Mountains. At one particular gap I decided to cross by leaping over rather than struggling the long way around. Unfortunately, from my perspective, due the manner in which the light and shadows played off the ledge below, I did not perceive the unevenness of the shelf. I leapt and landed with my weight entirely on my left foot, which caused it to twist painfully. I was unable to put any weight on the sprained ankle and my companions were not able to support or carry me so the two of them went for help thereby leaving me alone on the mountainside.

I do not recall how long I had been left alone before I heard the most terrifying scream. I turned in the direction of the scream and saw that I had been joined by a Mountain Lion who stood seven or eight feet above me on another ledge. I immediately thought I was a goner as the two of us eyed each other. It seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably less then a minute, the Mountain Lion apparently decided I was neither a threat or lunch because it turned away and left.

It did not take anytime at all for me to decide to do the exact same thing, which for me was to turn and crawl down that mountainside before my new acquaintance had a change of mind and decided I might just be lunch after all.

I met my cousin, her boyfriend, and the posse of rescuers at the bottom near the parking lot where the car was parked. I was promptly scolded for not waiting and taking such a risky chance. After they sufficiently got over their disappointment at not being able to rescue me I told them about my encounter with the Mountain Lion and the fear that gave me the incentive to crawl down. I think they were all a little bit jealous of my up close and personal encounter with one of the Santa Monica Mountains shy but magnificent residents.

I do not like to be afraid and I do not put myself into fearful situations, like roller coasters and horror films. However, I would not exchange that terrifying encounter with the Mountain Lion, for when the fear dissolves into awe it is truly an amazing experience.

The Undoing Of Fear

Today our A Course in Miracles study group started Chapter 28; The Undoing of Fear, and, as we read through Section 1, I recalled Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech of 1941, which I understand was technically his State of the Union Address, but growing up with Norman Rockwell’s paintings forever at hand it will always be remembered as the Four Freedoms Speech. The Elementary School I attended had copies of the Rockwell paintings displayed along with portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Our family had reproductions as did most of my friends’ families whose parents were all of an age to have listened to the speech on the radio on that 6th of January, eleven short months shy of Pearl Harbor.

As we read about the Undoing of Fear I thought back to all the times I was taught to be afraid while growing up in Los Angeles County. The first thing I was taught to be afraid of was the Commies and their Atom Bombs all reinforced by the regular Duck and Cover drills in school, the monthly test of the air raid siren that could be heard for miles and miles, the atomic bomb bunkers on the nearby Palos Verdes Peninsula, and of course that was all capstoned by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Then it was George Putman’s news where his conservative coverage of the Civil Rights Movement was portrayed as something we should all be fearful of and then brought home in August of 1965 when we all stood upon our rooftops and watched the flames and smoke rising from Watts. All too soon though it was back to the Red Menace and that dirty little Southeast Asian war and the Hawks were clamoring for a nuclear strike on Hanoi. It always amazed me how Ho Chi Minh, who stood 4’ 11’’ and weighed all of 90 pounds, caused so much fear in the self-proclaimed most powerful country on Earth.

China, the Ku Klux Klan, Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran, Iraq, and Terrorism comprise only a partial list of reasons to harbor fear. My wife and I were watching Brian Wilson’s news show last night and there was coverage of the TSA and their new scanners and footage of the heavily armed agents in the airports and it hurt to remember as a teen and in my twenties there was none of that. Loved ones could even accompany the passengers out to the plane and kiss them goodbye then wave as they walked up the stairs. The only fear of flying seemed to be restricted to mechanical failures and Acts of God.

After last nights news I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be afraid of, the threat of terrorism or the worst drought in California History. I suppose we’ve been given so many things to be afraid of that maybe we’re being desensitized to fear itself. At least that’s the way I feel these days. I think the last thing I really worried about was a war with China. In fact, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was away on a business trip and awakened by a phone call from my wife who declared that; “We’re under attack,” and my immediate response was to ask; “The Chinese?”

I’m sure it was also Franklin Roosevelt who declared: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and that’s what The Undoing Of Fear is really all about – simply changing our perspectives and choosing not to give fear a place to roost.

The Loss of Innocence

It’s a common theme in literature and popular song that one loses their innocence with their first sexual experience as in Don Williams’ song “Old Coyote Town” where he sings about the “drive-in where my innocence died.”

I suppose this notion has been around for thousands of years but I think the real loss of innocence is that singular moment in time when you realize that this world of ours is not always a warm, safe, and friendly place to be. For many that realization comes all too soon; like with the unwanted, neglected, abused, tortured, and/or discriminated child. For some, maybe it was a loved one lost to violence that changed their view of the world.

For several years now, whenever I’ve been asked what I would like to achieve in the future, the first thing that comes to mind is that I would like to regain the innocence that I don’t remember having.

Being a child of the post WWII nuclear age I cannot seem to recall a time, when I was young boy, where we weren’t expected to live in terror of the Russians and their Atomic Bombs. The elementary school I attended regularly reinforced these fears with their Drop, Duck, and Cover Drills. Of course, there was also the monthly test of the air raid siren that could be heard for miles and miles across the South Bay. Then if these things, and the daily televised horrors, weren’t enough, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 and most of us were led to believe that we would all soon be dead – unless you had a bomb shelter.

At the height of this particular reign of terror it seemed that every third business on the busy boulevard I grew up on sold and installed bomb shelters. Now this may be somewhat of an exaggeration but I can tell you on the next block south of ours there were three such businesses on the west side of that boulevard. That’s three out of seven on a single short block. Now my family never had the money to install one but roughly half the kids I knew in school had shelters in their back yards and for a time there was a class division on the playground between the haves and have-nots. Go figure that.

Well, the days of nuclear fear passed and were replaced by the Vietnam War (or was that a police action), which was then replaced by yet another and then another crisis in the ongoing saga of our supposedly civilized society. Sometimes it seems that to be a citizen herein is to be constantly exposed to fear in a society that is always at war with something – be it poverty, crime, terrorism, or even yet another country that most Americans seem never to have heard of before.

For some time I was a youth group leader at the Unity Church where we attended and one of the things I taught our teens were the 5 Unity Principles, the third of which is:

“I create my experiences by what I choose to think and what I feel and believe.”

Now, I may never find the innocence that I never had but I refuse to let myself be dragged into thinking, feeling, and believing that I need to be afraid any more because; “there is no fear in love.”