There is more to fear than meets the eye. We often associate the symptoms of fear (the reactions fear initiates) as the fear itself. This evokes mental images of fear as being screaming and fleeing experiences. Actually, the screaming and fleeing are reactions to feeling fear, not fear itself. The other most common reaction to feeling fear is the opposite of fleeing; it is attack and anger.
Here it helps to consider words that correlate to fear and reactions these can initiate. For example, fear = silence = death = loss = weakness = nothing. Here are the reactions that correlate to (match) these ‘fears’, need = sound = life = gain = strength = something.
We can view this relationship as a proportion, i.e., need is to fear as sound is to silence. We can display this simply as:
Need = sound
Fear = silence
We can show all the words this way:
|Need =||sound =||life =||gain =||strength =||something|
|Fear =||silence =||death =||loss =||weakness =||nothing|
Put another way: From fear, silence, death, loss, weakness, and nothing, arise (in due course) need, sound, life, gain, strength, something.
Language has a way of distorting how we think, mainly by helping us mistake symptoms for causes. This cuts short consideration of the subtle underlying causes. We end up amplifying differences and over-reacting instead of noticing similarities which helps us be more circumspect in our reactions. The result: short-term fixes that often create problematic unintended consequences.
Correlations help to untangle the knots and soften the glare of difference, which opens the entrance to mysterious sameness, as chapter 56 notes. Consider this next set of correlations. For example, anger fights; fear flees; need seeks, fear hides. (Note: They read in a clockwise direction which means you read the top line from left to right and the bottom line from right to left — clockwise in a circle.)
anger -> fights
FLEES <- FEAR
need -> seeks
HIDES <- FEAR
desire -> stirs
STILLS <- CONTENT
war -> attacks
SURRENDERS <- PEACE
Can you notice a subtle relationship between the words on the top line: anger -> fights; need -> seeks; desire -> stirs; war -> attacks? How about the bottom line: FLEES <- FEAR; HIDES <- FEAR; STILLS <- CONTENT; SURRENDERS <- PEACE? (Again, read the bottom line from right to left.)
For more on correlations see Tools of Taoist Thought: Correlations.
Through the Yin Yang Lens
Yin and Yang are our thinking mind’s last stop on the road to chapter 56’s, This is known as mysterious sameness. In other words, they are the simplest, most direct way to discern difference before ceasing to differentiate. Being the simplest and most direct means of discernment limits your ability to dream up far-flung rationalizations. Such ‘sophisticated’ thought enables clever people to rationalize their needs and fears. As chapter 18 has it, When cleverness emerges
There is great hypocrisy
The process goes something like this. We feel strong primal emotions, need, fear, anger, envy, etc. These feelings initiate thoughts which mirror those feelings. If you feel anger, you’re likely to think angry thoughts. If you feel a need for something, you’re likely to think up all the reasons why you should satisfy the need. These thoughts feed back into, and reinforce, the initial emotions that got the thought-ball rolling. This makes it difficult to be impartial and self-honest enough to reach the way; as chapter 16 hints, Impartiality to kingliness, Kingliness to heaven, Heaven to the way.
Pleasure’s the Bait…
Buddha said in his second truth, “Pleasure is the bait; the result is pain”. It is one of nature’s finest hoodwinks. Pleasure attracts living things toward that which benefits survival. On the other hand, seeing beneath the attractive surface often reveals the ‘hook’ you may want to avoid. This wisdom is also a survival advantage. (See How the Hoodwink Hooks.)
Valuing life for the experience, with a bit less regard for the pleasure or pain of the experience, gives one a survival advantage. Being wary of pleasure as a driver of life’s actions, even as instinct clamors for immediate satisfaction is one of life’s greatest difficulties. “A peace that is ever the same”, as the Bhagavad Gita puts it, is only possible by increasing impartiality in regards to pleasure and pain. With a greater ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, life is more even. You suffer when its time comes, and you enjoy when its time comes.
A most helpful rule of thumb I recognized years ago was: Short-term pleasure (leads to) long-term pain. Short-term pain (leads to) long-term pleasure. A good parallel is the handling of guns. If you assume the gun is always loaded you will be more careful and avoid shooting yourself in the foot. Likewise, if you assume short-term pleasure easily leads to long-term pain, you’ll be more careful and avoid being ‘hooked’. Obviously not all short-term pleasure leads to long-term pain, or vice versa. Each person must verify within their own experiences if this rule holds water, when it does, and to what extent.