“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” Buddha
For years, I have unknowingly lived by the above philosophy. It’s just something that I acquired naturally from being the child of immigrants. From growing up too quickly because I had to. From being a very integral part in the struggle to survive. From knowing what being the object of hate and intolerance feels like first hand. From searching for a cultural identity when you don’t feel like you belong anywhere. From seeking love and guidance from a religion that seems so far away from my reality. From the fear of disappointing or harming the few people around me with whom I feel a connection or a sense of identity. From being disappointed over and over again by others who are experiencing their own struggles. From being harmed when all you have done is ask for acceptance or offer kindness.
Then there’s the concept of fear mentioned above. Lots of fear, actually. For me, mostly the fear of being alone…of never truly belonging anywhere or to anyone. Along with this, comes the fear of being lost…sort of like drifting lamely on the sea without a sense of direction or purpose. Without a destination. I’ve always thought that it is the connections in our lives, the love that we give and receive, that provides the motivation to have a destination or that define us. So, as a result…it’s always been my preference to NEVER depend on anyone for anything. At the same time, “the fear” has lead me to give beyond all reasonable expectations. While this tactic can provide a short term solution, in the long run it is harmful, I have discovered.
I think I’m starting to understand it, though. Facing our fears head on takes away their power over us. We become free. We don’t allow the fears to make decisions for us. Whether it’s the fear of solitude, the fear of being lost or irrelevant or (in the extreme) the fear of imprisonment, pain or even death. Some of the history’s greatest leaders and humanitarians have discovered this phenomenon, including but not limited to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Nelson Mandela and Dalai Lama. There are many thousands of lesser knowns who have also experienced this revelation of sorts. People of all backgrounds who struggle against oppressors of many forms: political, religious, personal, sexual, racial and/or familial. While this concept can be useful in obtaining personal and social reform, it can be dangerous without the proper guidance or leadership. In the political and/or religious realms, it can lead to either unprecedented beneficial change or (at the other end of the extreme) manipulated acts of hate and violence beyond comprehension.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
Joan of Arc
On a more personal (and less political) note, I have recently set out to conquer one of my biggest fears that has followed me since childhood. Solitude. I have made many mistakes in my life to avoid being alone. I have given in to things and compromised myself, unfortunately. However, I now understand that being alone is crucial in everyone’s life. How do you know who YOU are, outside of our environmental definitions, without getting to know yourself. Being alone provides an opportunity to discover the power within and to make that all important connection to oneself. For self-love and understanding. To appreciate all that we have instead of what we are lacking. What a concept, right? Only when this is accomplished can one make healthy, worthwhile connections with others or offer anything of substance to the world.
Love. Kindness. Compassion. Peace. We must first obtain these within ourselves to apply these concepts to others or to teach them to subsequent generations. It is my personal goal to do just that. I want to have a positive impact in this world. First and foremost in teaching and guiding my own children along the way as they embark on their own personal journeys. Then, in applying those same principles in reaching out to others who suffer in this world. In my mind, there is no greater satisfaction than offering the best of yourself to others and seeing positive change. To shoulder their pain for a bit so that they can gain the strength and resources that they need to survive and rise above their circumstances. To discover for themselves that they can be whoever they want to be, that they are more than who they are told they are by their immediate environment. How can I accomplish this if I can’t even achieve it within myself?
“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” ~Dalai Lama
“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.” ~Mohandas Gandhi
I think that I’m on my way and in the end I know that I WILL accomplish this goal. I feel it in my bones. In the meantime, life is a gift that is meant to be enjoyed and I intend to do just that.
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” ~Nelson Mandela
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” ~Dalai Lama
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~Mother Teresa