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 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 need, attack and anger.
It helps to consider some words that correlate to fear… Fear = silence = death = entropy = peace = nothing. Here are some correlated counterpart ‘reactions’ that arise from these ‘fears’… Need = sound = life = negentropy = war = something. Note: Read the = sign as ‘correlates to’.
We can view such polar parts in a proportion relationship. This can deepen and broaden the meaning of fear and its synonym-like and antonym-like parts. For example, 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:
Put another way: From FEAR, SILENCE, DEATH, ENTROPY, PEACE, AND NOTHING, arise (in due course) need, sound, life, negentropy, war, something.
Difference vs. Mysterious sameness
Language has a way of distorting how we think, mainly by permitting us to mistake symptoms for causes. This curtails any deep consideration of the more subtle underlying connections. As a result, we over-react to the differences that jump out at us instead of noticing possible similarities. Such blindness to similarities allows fear to drive short-term fixes that often create problematic unintended consequences. Happily, Correlations, p.565, can help untangle the knots and soften the glare of differences, which paves the way to mysterious sameness, as chapter 56 puts it.
This next set of correlations hints at the dynamic circular relationship between these opposites. First, can you notice the subtle relationship between the words on the top lines: need -> seeks; sound -> stirs; life -> fills; negentropy -> tightens; and so on? How about the bottom lines: FEAR -> HIDES; SILENCE -> STILLS; DEATH -> EMPTIES; ENTROPY -> LOOSENS; and so on? (Note, the bottom line reads from right to left.)
Next, read each boxed set of four correlations together. For example, “Need seeks; FEAR HIDES”, “Sound stirs, SILENCE STILLS”, and so on. (Again: They read in a clockwise direction, the top line from left to right, the bottom line from right to left.)
Can you feel the subtle circular link between the set of four words in each box above? Now try switching the verb pairs. For example, “Need stirs, FEAR STILLS”, “Sound lives, SILENCE DIES”, “Life seeks, DEATH HIDES”, and so on. Some make more common sense than others do. The less sensible ones invite deeper intuitive understanding.
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. Next comes Correlations (p.565). They do permit complex thought, yet severely limit your ability to dream up sophisticated rationalizations. Such high-level thought merely enables clever people to rationalize their needs and fears. As chapter 18 has it, When cleverness emerges There is great hypocrisy.
The rationalization process goes something like this. We feel strong primal emotions: need, fear, anger, envy, etc. These feelings initiate thoughts that 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,
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. In any case, knowing how Nature works helps manage how we deal with Her.