Mr. Grifter,

Actually, a grifter is a small-scale swindler so it doesn’t really apply to you but I’m enamored of the rhyme (“mister” and “grifter”) so I’m going with it.

I don’t want to focus squarely on you today though, so I’m going to segue to my preferred topic, which is the relationship between fear and love. I don’t know, yet, what I think about this or even if I’ll decide there’s a meaningful relationship between them, but I got two signs (as in literal sets of words) about them today so I’m taking that as a sign (in the symbolic, meaning-making sense of the word) that I should give this some thought.

The first literal set of words was on a small painted rock we passed twice on our morning dog walk. The rock says “Be Not Afraid,” which is really a rather strange thing for a rock to say. This rock also had two lamb’s ear leaves very carefully placed vertically on either side of the words, which is also quite odd. Perhaps it’s a reference to lambs lying down with lions since that’s about as no-fear (for the lambs) as you can get. I know, it’s a stretch, but maybe! Anyway, when I saw it at the beginning of the walk I thought: “hmm, I suppose that’s a comforting, if rather biblical, sentiment.”

We then proceeded to have a quite un-fun walk involving way more evasive maneuvers to avoid possible covid-germs and other dogs than we usually need to take early on Sunday mornings. I also got super hot and sweaty and the little dog, who was my charge, was at his challenging best (he has the habit of trailing behind me and alternating between pulling backwards mildly and doing a hard jerk-back – super charming). As I said, it was un-fun.

So, when we passed by the “Be Not Afraid” rock as we headed home I had more of a “yeah right” reaction. It wasn’t that I was feeling particularly afraid in the moment, but being in a cranky space led me to be much more skeptical about the idea. Really, if someone is telling someone else not to be afraid, it implies there’s something at least potentially threatening but that one should either ‘turn it over to God’ or buck up and not be a baby.

Then, this afternoon on the short drive over to a sunny-ish place to try for an antidote walk, we got behind a van with a bumper sticker taped inside the back window that says “LOVE > FEAR.” The message was actually quite hard to see. I think maybe the window was tinted dark and there wasn’t that much visual contrast in the sticker itself, but whatever the reason(s), it actually seems apropos that it was hard to see. The idea that love is greater than fear (as in love will overcome fear or fear is no match for love) requires at least as big a leap of faith as “Be Not Afraid” requires.

……. I just had a “duh, shoulda had a V-8” moment. I remembered that the Buddha taught the monks to do loving-kindness meditation when they were afraid to go into the forest to meditate, which is pretty much the ultimate LOVE > FEAR assertion. I don’t know that love can really overcome fear, but maybe that’s not the point. Maybe it’s that love allows us to face our fear and maybe even more importantly, that love protects us from having our fear manipulated into anger. Yes, that feels right.

By the way, I’m officially letting go of the patently invalidating “Be Not Afraid” message since it’s stupid and dangerous.

May we keep our centers centered and safe.
May we be willing to bring love into the picture when we are afraid.
May we know that resorting to anger in the face of fear is not a real sign of strength.
May we be tender towards our fear and show it some love.

Tracy Simpson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s