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Series I - Chapter 75 - 'Fear and Escape'

Series I - Chapter 75 - 'Fear and Escape'

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Commentaries on Living

WE WERE STEADILY climbing, without any perceptible movement. Below us was a vast sea of clouds, white and dazzling, wave upon wave as far as the eye could see. They looked so astonishingly solid and inviting. Occasionally, as we climbed higher in a wide circle there were breaks in this brilliant foam, and far below was the green earth. Above us was the clear blue sky of winter, soft and immeasurable. A massive range of snow-covered mountains stretched from north to south, sparkling in the brilliant sun. These mountains reached an elevation of over fourteen thousand feet, but we had risen above them and were still climbing. They were a familiar range of peaks, and they looked so near and serene. The higher peaks lay to the north, and we shot off to the south, having reached the required altitude of twenty thousand feet.

The passenger in the next seat was very talkative. He was unfamiliar with those mountains, and had dozed as we climbed; but now he was awake and eager for a talk. It appeared that he was going out on some business for the first time; he seemed to have many interests, and spoke with considerable information about them. The sea was now below us, dark and distant, and a few ships were dotted here and there. There was not a tremor of the wings, and we passed one lighted town after another along the coast. He was saying how difficult it was not to have fear, not particularly of a crash, but of all the accidents of life. He was married and had children, and there was always fear - not of the future alone, but of everything in general. It was a fear that had no particular object, and though he was successful, this fear made his life weary and painful. He had always been rather apprehensive, but now it had become extremely persistent and his dreams were of a frightening nature. His wife knew of his fear, but she was not aware of its seriousness.

Fear can exist only in relation to something. As an abstraction, fear is a mere word, and the word is not the actual fear. Do you know specifically of what you are afraid? "I have never been able to lay my finger on it, and my dreams too are very vague; but threading through them all there is fear. I have talked to friends and doctors about it, but they have either laughed it off or otherwise not been of much help. It has always eluded me, and I want to be free of the beastly thing."

Do you really want to be free, or is that just a phrase?

"I may sound casual, but I would give a great deal to be rid of this fear. I am not a particularly religious person, but strangely enough I have prayed to have it taken away from me. When I am interested in my work, or in a game, it is often absent; but like some monster it is ever waiting, and soon we are companions again."

Have you that fear now? Are you aware now that it is somewhere about? Is the fear conscious or hidden ? "I can sense it, but I do not know whether it is conscious or unconscious."

Do you sense it as something far away or near - not in space or distance, but as a feeling? "When I am aware of it, it seems to be quite close. But what has that got to do with it?"

Fear can come into being only in relation to something. That something may be your family, your work, your preoccupation with the future, with death. Are you afraid of death? "Not particularly, though I would like to have a quick death and not a long-drawn-out one. I don't think it is my family that I have this anxiety about, nor is it my job."

Then it must be something deeper than the superficial relationships that is causing this fear. One may be able to point out what it is, but if you can discover it for yourself it will have far greater significance. Why are you not afraid of the superficial relationships? "My wife and I love each other; she wouldn't think of looking at another man, and I am not attracted to other women. We find completeness in each other. The children are an anxiety, and what one can do, one does; but with all this economic mess in the world, one cannot give them financial security, and they will have to do the best they can. My job is fairly secure, but there is the natural fear of anything happening to my wife."

So you are sure of your deeper relationship. Why are you so certain? "I don't know, but I am. One has to take some things for granted, hasn't one?"

That's not the point. Shall we go into it? What makes you so sure of your intimate relationship? When you say that you and your wife find completeness in each other, what do you mean? "We find happiness in each other: companionship, understanding, and so on. In the deeper sense, we depend on each other. It would be a tremendous blow if anything happened to either of us. We are in that sense dependent."

What do you mean by "dependent"? You mean that without her you would be lost, you would feel utterly alone, is that it? She would feel the same; so you are mutually dependent. "But what is wrong with that?"

We are not condemning or judging, but only inquiring. Are you sure you want to go into all this? You are quite sure? All right, then let's go on.

Without your wife, you would be alone, you would be lost in the deepest sense; so she is essential to you, is she not? You depend on her for your happiness, and this dependence is called love. You are afraid to be alone. She is always there to cover up the fact of your loneliness, as you cover up hers; but the fact is still there, is it not? We use each other to cover up this loneliness; we run away from it in so many ways, in so many different forms of relationship, and each such relationship becomes a dependence. I listen to the radio because music makes me happy, it takes me away from myself; books and knowledge are also a very convenient escape from myself. And on all these things we depend.

"Why should I not escape from myself? I have nothing to be proud of, and by being identified with my wife, who is much better than I am, I get away from myself."

Of course, the vast majority escape from themselves. But by escaping from yourself, you have become dependent. Dependence grows stronger, escapes more essential, in proportion to the fear of what is. The wife, the book, the radio, become extraordinarily important; escapes come to be all-significant, of the greatest value. I use my wife as a means of running away from myself, so I am attached to her. I must possess her, I must not lose her; and she likes to be possessed, for she is also using me. There is a common need to escape, and mutually we use each other. This usage is called love. You do not like what you are, and so you run away from yourself, from what is.

"That is fairly clear. I see something in that, it makes sense. But why does one run away? What is one escaping from?"

From your own loneliness, your own emptiness, from what you are. If you run away without seeing what is, you obviously cannot understand it; so first you have to stop running, escaping and only then can you watch yourself as you are. But you cannot observe what is if you are always criticizing it, if you like or dislike it. You call it loneliness and run away from it; and the very running away from what is is fear. You are afraid of this loneliness, of this emptiness, and dependence is the covering of it. So fear is constant; it is constant as long as you are running away from what is. To be completely identified with something, with a person or an idea, is not a guarantee of final escape, for this fear is always in the background. It comes through dreams, when there is a break in identification; and there is always a break in identification, unless one is unbalanced.

"Then my fear arises from my own hollowness, my insufficiency. I see that all right, and it is true; but what am I to do about it?"

You cannot do anything about it. Whatever you do is an activity of escape. That is the most essential thing to realize. Then you will see that you are not different or separate from that hollowness. You are that insufficiency. The observer is the observed emptiness. Then if you proceed further, there is no longer calling it loneliness; the terming of it has ceased. If you proceed still further, which is rather arduous, the thing known as loneliness is not; there is a complete cessation of loneliness, emptiness, of the thinker as the thought. This alone puts an end to fear.

"Then what is love?"

Love is not identification; it is not thought about the loved. You do not think about love when it is there; you think about it only when it is absent, when there is distance between you and the object of your love. When there is direct communion, there is no thought, no image, no revival of memory; it is when the communion breaks, at any level, that the process of thought, of imagination, begins. Love is not of the mind. The mind makes the smoke of envy, of holding, of missing, of recalling the past, of longing for tomorrow, of sorrow and worry; and this effectively smothers the flame. When the smoke is not, the flame is. The two cannot exist together; the thought that they exist together is merely a wish. A wish is a projection of thought, and thought is not love.