There is much more to fear than meets the eye. We often associate the symptoms of fear (i.e., the outer reactions fear instigates) as the fear itself. These reactions span a range from ‘flight’ to ‘fight’, although screaming and fleeing are the images that usually come to mind. Actually, pure fear is profoundly more subtle and universal.
It helps to consider some words that correlate to fear. For example, fear ≈ silence ≈ death ≈ entropy ≈ peace ≈ nothing. Now consider the following correlation counterparts, 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:
——– ≈ ——-
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 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 calls it.
This next set of Correlations shows the dynamic circular relationship existing between these opposites. First, notice 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 deep intuitive deliberation.
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). Correlations do require diligent thought, yet severely limit the risk of dreaming up clever rationalizations. Such sophisticated thought only enables clever people to rationalize their needs and fears. As chapter 18 has it, When cleverness emerges There is great hypocrisy.
This 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 make headway, as chapter 16 notes…
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, p.100)
Valuing life for the experience, with a bit less regard for the pleasure or pain of the experience, gives one a survival advantage. Wariness of pleasure—the driver of life’s actions—even as instinct clamors for immediate satisfaction, is naturally difficult. “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 flows a bit smoother. You suffer when its time comes, and you enjoy when its time comes. As the old Zen saying put it, “In winter I shiver; in summer I sweat”.
A helpful rule I recognized years ago goes like this: 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. Likewise, if you assume short-term pleasure easily leads to long-term pain, you’ll be more careful and more likely to avoid being ‘hooked’. Obviously not all short-term pleasure leads to long-term pain, or vice versa. Each person must investigate their own life to know where, when, and how much this rule applies to them. In any case, knowing how Nature works helps us know how to deal with Her.