The opposite of love is hate; but the obstacle to love is fear.’

Albert Einstein, the famous scientist, stated that ‘one of the most important questions facing every individual is whether or not the universe is friendly’. It would appear that ‘most people do not believe that it is.’1

‘Fear is something we all experience’.2 ‘No single instant is truly fearless – even the most loving or playful setting seems to hold some unseen promise of danger.’3 ‘As human beings we naturally fear hunger, illness and injury. We also fear economic hardship, social disrepute, and abandonment. And we are afraid of the time when death will come to us or to our loved ones.’4

Wayne Muller, a psycho-therapist, says ‘Terrifying fears we inherit from our childhood refuse to fade away. The lies, the betrayal, the abuse, the desertion – we remember each moment in vivid detail. For the child who has been hurt, fear becomes a reflex-ive response.’5

‘Our childhood fears (are) compounded because the people who claimed to be the guardians of our safety were inevitably the same people who caused us hurt. So just as we learned to be afraid, we also came to believe that no one could be trusted give us shelter.’6

Ghassan Hage, an Australian anthropologist, says that, as Australians, we are also afraid that if we took the land we live in, others may want to take it too. He says that Australians have an underlying fear of revenge for the genocide our ancestors com-mitted, de-colonisation by aborigines, and re-colonisation by migrants and refugees.7 ‘We live our lives in fear, regardless of whether those fears are real or (not)’.8

Parker Palmer, a Quaker educator, says ‘Fear is the air we breathe. We sub-scribe to religions that exploit our dread of death. We do business in an economy of fear driven by consumer worries about keeping up with the neighbours And we practice a politics of fear in which candidates are elected by playing on voter’s anxieties about race and class.’9 And we continue to ‘collaborate with these structures because they promise to protect us against one of the deepest fears at the heart of being human – the fear of having a live encounter with alien ”otherness”.’ 10

Palmer says our fear of ‘having a live encounter with alien “otherness”’ is based on:

  • a fear of difference – of someone or something “other” than ourselves challenging us.
  • a fear of conflict – a conflict that will surely ensue when the “other” challenges us.
  • a fear of loss – we fear the loss of something of ourselves in a win-lose conflict.
  • and, underneath,

  • a fear of change – even if we accept the promise of unity in diversity, the prospect of conflict being instructive, and the possibility of “win-win” solutions and even “winning” through “losing”, we are still scared of the pain in the challenge to change our lives. 11

At this point the anguished existentialist Albert Camus says ‘We are seized by a vague fear, an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits.’ 12

Some fear is healthy. It may be a sign of openness, responsiveness, vulnerability, a willingness to take risks, and the possibility of scary, but significant change. But much fear is unhealthy. It alienates us from others and ourselves.

David Benner, a professor of Spirituality and Psychology, says ‘Fear works in such a way that the object of the fear is almost irrelevant. Fearful people are more alike than the differences between the foci of their fear might suggest.’13

‘When fear arises, we harden our bodies and our hearts, closing inward to protect ourselves. Sometimes we feel paralysed, unable to move; at other times we race around faster, trying to make ourselves into a moving target, something harder to hit. We build walls, call up armies, and pay governments to protect us from danger as we try to minimise the risks of being human.’14

‘When we live in fear of everything that may bring us harm, we effectively insulate ourselves from life itself – because sorrow, illness, injury and death are unavoidable ingredients in life.’15

Fearful people live within restrictive boundaries. They tend to be quite cautious and conservative. They also tend to be highly vigilant, ever guarding against moving out of the bounds within which they feel most comfortable.’

People who live in fear feel compelled to remain in control. They attempt to control themselves and they attempt to control their world. Often, despite their best intent-ions, this spills over into efforts to control others.’

The fearful person may appear deeply loving, but fear always interferes with the impulse to love. Fear blocks responsiveness to others. Energy invested in main-taining safety and comfort always depletes energy available for others.’16

According to the sage Aussie cartoonist, Michael Leunig, we only have two options – love and fear. We can choose one or the other – but not both.

‘There are only two feelings. Love and fear.
There are only two languages. Love and fear.
There are only two activities. Love and fear.
There are only two motives. Love and fear.
There are only two results. Love and fear.
Love and fear.’17

If we allow fear to dominate our lives it destroys our capacity to love others. As the songwriter Amanda McBroom put it in her classic love song ‘The Rose’ :

‘It’s the heart afraid of breaking

that never learns to dance.

It’s the dream afraid of waking

That never takes a chance.

It’s the one who won’t be taken

Who cannot seem to give.

And the soul afraid of dying

That never learns to live.’

Albert Camus says if we draw back because of our fear, we may miss out on our moment of enlightenment. ‘We are seized by a vague fear, an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light and there is eternity.’18

According to Alfred Lord Tennyson: ‘He that shuts Love out, in turn shall be shut out from Love, and on her threshold lie, howling in the outer darkness’.19

The language the poet uses may be hyperbole, but social observers, like Ghassan Hage, would say that is exactly what Australia, as a nation, has done. We have chosen to reject ‘caring’ which always includes a concern for others as well as ourselves. And, consequently, all we are left with is, what he calls, ‘worrying’a narcissistic preoccupation with our own safety and security.20

1 p36 David Benner Surrender to Love Downers Grove IVP 20032 p 18 Wayne Muller Legacy Of The Heart New York Simon &Schuster 19923 p 19 Muller4 p 18 Muller5 p 19 Muller

6 p 20 Muller

7 p48-52 Ghassan Hage Against Paranoid Nationalism Annandale Pluto Press 2003

8 p 21 Muller

9 p39 Parker Palmer The Courage To Teach San Francisco, Josey-Bass, 1998.

10 p37 Palmer

11 p38 Parker Palmer

12 pp13-14 Albert Camus Notebooks 1935-1942 New York: Marlowe, 1996

13 p40 Benner

14 p 18 Muller

15 And the irony is – that ‘when we live in fear, regardless of whether those fears are real or imagined…we produce tremendous levels of stress…which lowers our resistance to disease and actually bring about the illnesses we fear the most.’ p 18 Muller

16 p40 Benner

17 Michael Leunig A Common Prayer North Blackburn Collins Dove 1990

18 pp13-14 Camus

19 Alfred Lord Tennyson cited by Michael Leunig in A Common Prayer

20 p3 Hage

1 Comment »

  1. right here says:

    right here…

    The opposite of love is hate; but the obstacle to love is fear.’ @ Plan Be – The Beatitudes And The Be-Attitude Revolution…


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