Fear

Fear

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In this episode I reflect on fear and why it is an unhelpful emotion in the battle against danger. I quote from Tessa Lena’s excellent article, On Fear of the Monster and Fanaticism: Some Spontaneous Philosophy and make the case for acting from love, joy, courage, and freedom. (Text Below)

This episode was broadcast August 22nd, 2021. Freedom Loves  Company, Revolution.Radio, Studio B.  Sunday, 6-8pm MT, 8-10pm ET, Midnight – 2 am GMT

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Danger is real. Fear is in the mind.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The mainstream media on behalf of its handlers has the population in a state of fear. Fear of a virus that no matter how you look at it is not deserving of fear at all. 99.97% survive. It is about as deadly as the flu. But the fear has created a real danger. Fear has made people become irrational in both belief and behavior.

They believe that they are sick when they are not. They believe in an experimental injection that will protect them, but only if everyone is injected. Their fear has been turned into rage. The target of this fear-induced rage are those people who don’t believe the media’s propaganda. They are labeled “the unvaccinated” and people want these unvaccinated people to suffer until they join the vaccinated.

Now we have so-called variants, that to the extent they are real, are likely caused or aided by the vaccines themselves. It is not the unvaccinated that are getting sick, but the vaccinated or partially vaccinated. This is due to adverse reactions to the vaccine or due to the variants the vaccine is causing, or due to the violence the vaccines are doing to their immune systems. I am no expert. This is just from what I am reading from doctors and scientists.

The media is promoting fear of the unvaccinated every second of every day. There is danger to the unvaccinated. Apparently, the vaccinated can “shed” on the unvaccinated and cause harmful reactions. While the unvaccinated could be afraid of this, and I would expect that many are, nonetheless, it is the fear the vaccinated have of the unvaccinated that is driving the police state reactions and the vaccine passports, and the firing of medical workers and teachers if they are not vaccinated.

The fear and ultimately, disgust, which could be an even more dangerous emotion, that many of the vaccinated display toward the unvaccinated and those who openly question the media is a very real danger. But it is not good to respond to this with fear.

A few weeks ago, Tessa Lena was on my program. I have some of her essay in front of me. It is called “On Fear of the Monster and Fanaticism: Some Spontaneous Philosophy.” She advocates for love, courage, and joy. I couldn’t agree more. But doing so is not easy. Tessa Lena writes:

QUOTE:

“I want to make a clear case against fear and fanaticism, especially in the people “on my side.”

I think we all occasionally feel like this: “I have looked into it, and I’ve discovered a monster, so how dare you not focus on this thing that hurts so much in me? How dare you? How dare you be so complacent about the monster?”

Now, sometimes the feeling may be entirely legitimate. The monster may be scary, and it may be in everyone’s best interest to get their shit [act] together. But for all practical purposes, fear still doesn’t help.

The dance of fighting the monster without being scared is not an easy dance by any stretch of imagination. It’s a difficult dance that requires life-long focus and rebalancing yourself again and again. So I am saying it with hope to be heard and without judgement. The reactive behavior, to my senses, comes from unhealed trauma, not from the lack of intelligence or good intention. But I also believe that anyone who aspires to show the way to others has the obligation to recognize it when they act on fear and fight the beast with tooth and claw. And it is particularly important when fighting a good fight.

How does fanaticism come to exist? I believe that it’s a protective mechanism that shows up in reaction to our fear of horrible things that may happen to us due to no fault of our own but due other people’s poor choices. It’s a tower in one’s head that describes the world in a way that minimizes the sense of helplessness. It’s a reaction to trauma of real or anticipated unearned pain, combined with the lack of desire to investigate the trauma and tackle it head on—or maybe the lack of understanding of how to do it this very second. And perhaps it’s a necessary phase of our emotional growth of every human being…

With all that said, I feel a very strong desire make a case against fear because the times are cray-cray, and we need all hands on deck—and fear is impractical. Fear impacts our bodies, whipping out the hormones that prevent us from thinking straight. If we allow that to happen to us for too long, then instead of acting in an even-headed manner, including in protective ways, we’ll act like fools and regret it later.

(For example, I am not a fan of the popular medical product of the day. Twitter editorials say there isn’t and cannot be any shedding, and perhaps there isn’t, except in, say, Pfizer clinical trial documents— see 8.3.5—and a bunch of other papers, like here and here. But if there is, I am not going to drive myself insane thinking about it all day but instead, do what I think is right, pray for clarity and protection, take a million vitamins, and live my life.)

We are in this mysterious dance with other people, and we are supposed to help each other heal, and it really is a mystery how it works. So I believe that we have an obligation to relax and have faith in joy.”

ENDQUOTE

Tessa Lena from her essay, “On Fear of the Monster and Fanaticism: Some Spontaneous Philosophy.”

I do agree with her that we need to act from love, courage, and joy in this dangerous time. We need to face the fears we have. The fear we may have in this current situation, with this particular monster, is not a unique fear. That is to say, the fear that breaks out in us is a fear we have had at times dormant and at times active from our life’s history, including childhood. Some of my old-time fears include fear that I will not do the right thing, fear that I won’t be adequate to the task, fear of losing my security, fear of conflict, fear of being made to look foolish, fear of shame, fear of suffering. Perhaps of all of those, the fear of shame is most dominant.

So important then to act from love, courage, and joy.

I do what I do, that is I do this radio show, and I am active on social media, and I do what I do in my interactions with my work and my family because I love life, I love people, I love this world, and Life itself. I believe the Monster is attacking what I love, so I act not from fear of the monster, or from my old fears that like to dominate my life, but I act from love of myself, and of others, and of this world.

Courage, or heart, is that which knows the fear, but says, act with heart anyway. Act with love. Act with who I really am. That brings joy. I am joyful when I act from love and from courage. It is love, courage, and joy that will give us the weapons we need to slay this monster. Our fear is not a helpful motivator. I will not let the monster take my love or take my courage or take my joy. While I cannot guarantee the outcome of my fight with the monster using love, courage, and joy, I do know that if I begin with fear, the monster will win.

I woke up with fear today. I see what is happening in Australia and Europe and in the United States with people being manipulated and forced to do things against their will or against their nature.

These are dangerous times. They do not have to be fearful times. Fears will come up. They will arise. Our old foe, fear, will attack us and want to drive us. Love, Courage, and Joy are stronger than fear, when we give them control and let them drive our beliefs and actions.

Acting from Love, Courage, and Joy will result in actions that reflect our true selves. They will be beautiful actions whether or not they result in outcomes that will be convincing to others. But they will defeat the Monster in that the Monster will not control our true self. When we act from fear, the Monster controls us. When we act from Love, Courage, and Joy, the Monster cannot control us.

A shout out of thanksgiving to Tessa Lena for her essay, “On Fear of the Monster and Fanaticism: Some Spontaneous Philosophy.”

Expanding the Heart

These are the notes from a speech I gave at the Hussain Day Conference in Somerset, New Jersey at the Masjid-E-Ali Mosque. The conference was entitled, “Rise Above Hate.”

It was sponsored by Payam-e-Aman and Stand With Dignity

Last year I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t say that lightly. It is an experience that will stay with me for my lifetime, insha’Allah.  I visited the shrine of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) in Karbala, Iraq during Arba’een, the largest annual peaceful human gathering in the world.  Estimates range from a low of 15 million to upwards of 30 million people who make the journey to Karbala every year. 

My friend and I made a film about it. You can find it on YouTube, “For Love of Hussain.” 

The trip was sponsored by The Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle. Sister Zahra Abidi has a vision for a Hussain Revolution in the United States that includes bringing people together to discuss important things, sometimes controversial things, but things that matter not only to Muslims but to all human beings. That is how I met her. 

In addition to being a pastor I host a radio show on KBOO, a community radio station in Portland. I moderated a panel discussion regarding the war against Yemen at Portland State University in February 2018. It was entitled “The US – Saudi Coalition: Bringing Peace or War?” 

It was in the follow-up of that conference during an email exchange that I first heard of Hussain. He was referenced in regards to the panelists, all of whom had taken risks, and had sacrificed in varying ways for their work in bring truth to light. Each of the panelists was a truth-teller. They told inconvenient truths about the powers that be. 

That is how I was introduced to Imam Hussain (Peace Be Upon Him). He was a truth-teller and was martyred for embodying the truth. I knew nothing else about him except that.  I wanted to learn more. 

Sending Christians and Sunni Muslims to Iraq for Arba’een is one of the things Sister Zahra and the Husayniah Society of Seattle does. I am happy to support her good work. They have just purchased property in the north of Seattle, in hopes, insh’Allah, of creating a center. I am sure she would love to talk with you about it and hear your encouragement. You can visit their website.  Search Husayniah Seattle.

The Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle paid for the trip for my friend, Josh, and me. Josh has done some filming. So we went to make an amateur documentary.  It was more than that for me. This was timely in my life. It was a search, you could say. I have been experiencing I guess you could say a spiritual growth spurt.  Maybe it is a mid-life crisis.  I have discovered the need in my own life to search more deeply about what is really going on in our world and what are the forces at work and to what paths we are being led. I realize I cannot trust our traditional sources of information, especially the mainstream media to do that.

I am discovering that these forces are dark forces as the title of this conference indicates. Rise Above Hate.  What is hate? How do we rise above it? 

I didn’t go To Arba’een for healing. I didn’t go for intercession. I didn’t go for forgiveness of sins. I didn’t go for mourning.  I didn’t know people went for all those reasons until I went there and started talking with people. 

I went because I wanted to see this person and why so many were attracted to him. I wanted to see the person whose life was so pure, that he gave it to save his grandfather’s faith. I wanted to visit the person who didn’t compromise his principles. I wanted to see the person who might inspire me in some way to find courage and character for whatever it is that Allah is calling me to do. I wanted to see the person who in his life and in his death rose above hate and showed us all how to do it.

Some Muslims I have met are curious as to whether I have converted or reverted to Islam. I don’t know how to answer that exactly. I like to think that my faith has expanded. I have a heart for Jesus (peace be upon him) and I always will, insh’Allah. But I also have a heart for Hussain (peace be upon him) and a heart for Mohammad (peace be upon him and his progeny).  Being introduced to Hussain and the Prophet and his family and the Islamic faith in loving ways by loving people has expanded my heart. 

You really cannot have an interfaith interaction and expect not to be changed in important ways. Unless we are vulnerable enough to have our hearts touched by another, it is not really an interaction. It is just us trying to convince others of our position. It is just a sales pitch.

I cannot worry about whether or not others are changed by what I say. That is up to God. I want my heart expanded by others—by you.  Or to put it more accurately, to have God expand my heart through you. 

That has happened a great deal in this past year in all my interactions with Muslims through the Islamic Center across the street from my church in Portland and with the Husayniah Society in Seattle as I mentioned, through my on-line interactions, through the generous opportunity to attend conferences, through the helpful resources in which I am slowly beginning to learn more about Karbala, through reflection, through my ministry in my church, and, of course, through the opportunity I was given to visit the holy sites in Iraq. 

That is what I think it means to “rise above hate.”  It means to have one’s own heart expanded. Let me explain.

Love expands the heart. Hate shrinks the heart.  

You know the book and movie, “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss?  The Grinch’s heart was three sizes too small, remember? He hated the Whos in Whoville. Then, by a miracle, his heart expanded. He met a Who, Cindy Lou Who, who showed him kindness and he saw what the Whos really loved and valued, what the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) meant, not things, but generosity, and the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.  

Sometimes the simplest children’s stories tell the most profound truths.

We cannot stop hate by hating the haters. We cannot just expand someone else’s heart. Hate takes a long time to shrink a heart. What does it take to shrink a heart with hate? It takes isolation. It takes hurt. It takes ignorance. It takes fear. It takes prejudice. It takes suspicion. It takes rejection. It takes anger. It takes envy. It takes greed. It takes acceptance of falsehood. It takes abuse. It takes oppression. It takes time to allow hate to shrink our hearts. 

Hate is out there. We can find it in our institutions in our governments. They can be overtaken. In my tradition, we call this force the demonic. It can take over a whole nation. The demonic does not work for the good of the world or the people or its creatures. It works to divide us, to shrink our hearts with hate. The demonic works in secret. It works in the dark. It works with deception. It works with lies. It works with marketing. There are forces at work in the world that want to shrink our individual hearts and our collective heart as a people. So we live in suspicion and fear and become docile to these forces.

Any of us, all of us, are susceptible to having hate shrink our hearts. Hate is like a toxic weed that grows in the soil of ignorance. Hate is the result of so many complex negative emotions. You can’t convince people or prove to people or sell people on your opinion.  You can only actually love. You can only do that by allowing your own heart to be expanded by another.

Rising Above Hate. How do we do that? If hate shrinks our heart, how does love expand our heart?

I should add this: The Latin root word for heart is cor. COR. Where we get the word coronary. We also get the word courage. We think of someone with the heart of a lion, like Hussain’s half-brother Abbas, as having the heart of a lion, a courageous heart.  As your heart expands, as your heart grows with love, you become courageous. 

How do we become courageous? How do we expand our hearts? 

The Buddha in the Dhammapadda is reported to have said: 

Do not consider the faults of others

Or what they have or haven’t done.

Consider rather

What you yourself have or haven’t done.

We cannot do that if we think we want to stop the hatred of others.  We want to stop hate. Therefore we want to stop them, those haters.  You can’t just tell people, “You are hateful. Stop it.” It won’t work.  We can only allow our own hearts to be expanded.

So I am in the Shrine of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). It is beautiful. The air conditioning is on. It is filled with the sound of prayer. People are crying. Some are standing. Some are sitting. Some are in various positions of prayer.  Poetry is being recited from many places. I don’t understand a word of it, except now and then I hear a name I recognize, Ali, Zainab, Abbas, Hossein.

This is about a week before Arba’een. I am with the tour group. I decide I want to go and touch the big box in the center of the shrine, the lattice work above the grave of Hussain. At first I wasn’t sure if I would do it, or should do it. If it was appropriate. Hussain was not a person in my religion. But I kept hearing all week that Hussain is for everyone. So I decided to go and do it. 

I don’t know what it is like on the women’s side, but on the men’s side, even a week before the day of Arba’een the place is packed. it is a push and pull like ocean waves of bodies. Your feet almost leave the ground. There are so many people. You know where you are headed. And you aim for it. But it is like swimming in the ocean. You don’t need to be aggressive but you need to hold your own. You swim through the bodies, pushed left and right. Finally, I got close enough, almost there.  

I should stop again. I was conscious of being different. Different religion. I only speak English. From America. My reddish hair, now reddish-gray, pale skin.  Of the thousands of people inside the shrine that day, I was probably the whitest guy in the room. I reach up and put my hand up to touch the lattice work and I can’t reach it. 

A hand took mine and pushed it up against the grate. It was a brown hand, taking my white hand up against the final resting place of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). It was a visual imprint in my mind that beyond all color, all race, all religion, all language, the language of love and truth and courage is one. The love of Hussain. Our eyes met. We just looked at each other. 

As I swam away, just a few yards away, I saw this man. He stared at me. Tears were streaming down his face. He asked me as many did on my trip, “Where are you from?” I told him, America.  He just started bawling. He hugged me and kissed me. I have joked that I never have been kissed by so many men with scratchy beards.  

But what is this?  

Iraq. A country that felt post-apocalyptic to me. I, like many of us Americans, watched from a distance as our leaders lied us into war, destroyed Iraq, and then ignored its suffering. No one goes there. No one that I know, except my brother-in-law. He is a professor at NYU and he goes often to the northern part of Iraq because of his work of peacebuilding with the University of Duhok. Besides my brother-in-law and soldiers, I know of no one who had been to Iraq. A country that Americans like me need to visit. A country devastated by the demonic, by lies and wars, by bombs and depleted uranium. By hatred from outside powers, mercenary terrorists and puppet tyrants, the people left to fend for themselves.  

The US state department tells Americans not to go to Iraq.  Too dangerous. Bad. Whatever. What did I find? I found love. I found tears. I found joy. I found hope. I found my heart had expanded.  A Christian American was embraced and shown the love of Hussain (alayhi s-salam).

That is how we rise above hate.  We allow ourselves to be vulnerable so our hearts can expand. If you cannot go to Arba’een, then bring Arba’een here. 

Courage is the result of an expanded heart. With courage is insight to tell the truth as best you know it when you need to tell it.  That is what I try to do now in my ministry and on my Facebook page and radio show, where ever I do my thing. That doesn’t mean I know truth more than others. That doesn’t mean I am not ever wrong. I am wrong often.  Courage is admitting it and learning from it.  

Courage does not mean me selling you my truth. It doesn’t mean that. Hearts do not expand that way. You tell what is true and live what is true and Allah does the rest. 

But it does mean that we cannot be afraid of what we know or of what we learn because of the discomfort of truth to us or others or to the powers that deceive. 

Nor can we be afraid of exploring and researching in taboo areas.  

Exposing the demonic and its lies.

That is where the hatred infests.

Nor can we be concerned if people will reject or ridicule or whatever they must do to protect their illusions. Hussain’s sacrifice shattered all illusions.

In particular, he shattered an illusion that you fight hate with more hate and that you lead with power and coercion.  

Hussain showed the world that you lead not with might but with right.  You fight hate with love from an expanded and courageous heart. 

That has always been the way that the true heroes rise above hatred in all its forms.

May we all be heroes in that same spirit.

Biblical Mythology and Wholeheartedness

From the Progressive Spirit Archives, here are two interviews from 2012 and 2013.

Cultural Anthropologist, Carol Delaney discusses her book, Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth. Dr. Delaney explores the roots of patriarchy by asking the question, what gave Abraham the right to sacrifice Isaac?  What is the legacy of this myth on the way we regard children today?

Brene Brown is the author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Dr. Brene Brown has done research on topics no one wants to discuss, shame and vulnerability. Yet it is through these human experiences that we find the courage to “dare greatly” and become “wholehearted.” In this candid conversation she weaves her own experience with her research and thus inspires us all to live courageous lives.

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