This is the fourth of “20 Questions for Spiritual Seekers” on Matador. I recently touched on the subject of fear, but in a somewhat superficial way. This question goes much deeper on a spiritual level. Of course, too many of the world’s people face very real fears of survival and safety. Setting those aside, I propose at least two primary, driving forces of fear that have profoundly affected human history since the beginning: fear of not being loved, and fear of living one’s life without meaning.
Humans need to feel loved. Non-believers will argue that’s a simple outcome of evolution, as emotional bonds would have improved our genetic odds of survival. There is, however, a case to be made that love is too profound an emotion, that when combined with other signs seems to indicate more. Is it possible that human love is a weak reflection of God’s love for us, a signpost pointing us to Him? I sure hope so, because the love I feel for my family is so strong that I would unhesitatingly lay down my life for them. If God loves me more than that, I am blessed beyond measure.
The second fear, that of living a meaningless life, can drive creation of art and music, material success, and—often—the desire for children. We want to know that we leave some mark on the world for having been here, that we don’t live our lives in vain.
Of course, both of these fears can also lead to evil and destruction. Crimes of passion, despotism and tyranny, and simple acts of cruelty can be driven out of fear that others don’t love us or a powerful drive to leave a mark—any mark—on the world. But these can also lead to a measure of fulfillment. Fear is universally human; we have a choice of how to respond. Some respond by building—relationships, beauty, charity. Some respond by destroying—things, lives, hope. Fear is unavoidable; how we choose to respond is not.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” –Mark Twain