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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Fear of Life 

At the end of my nap Wednesday afternoon, an instant before my alarm sounded, someone very dear to me appeared in my dream and asked me to talk with you about the fear of life.

Last week, I mentioned being touched by God's grace when I was younger and feeling like my life was over. More precisely, it felt like there was something profoundly wrong with me, holding me captive, slowly draining my life of joy and meaning. My desire to create was gone. Every day, instead of going to class, I drove my car, and tried to think my way out of my dead-end. The more I drove, the further from reality I got. In order to hide my inner struggle, I lied to my family every day regarding my physical and psychological whereabouts. The more I neglected and lied, the worse my existential panic became.

After a few weeks of this, my professor called me at home one evening and asked me, "What's wrong, friend?" I didn't know what to say, but I was touched by his concern. He asked me to go to class the following day and I agreed, although I dreaded it.

Later that evening, I ran into an old friend who gave me 2 hits of LSD. On my way home that night, in reckless desperation, I ate them. As the drug took effect, my panic turned into stark fear. I imagined that my parents would be waiting up for me, and that I wouldn't be able to hold myself together. By the time I got home, I had prepared myself to surrender to their love and accept help.

But everyone was asleep in my house. So I decided to ride it out alone. When I closed the door to my bedroom, my fear had turned into terror. I sat on my bed paralyzed by the terror of confronting the truth all at once, the terror of being destroyed without hope of redemption. Then it happened.

Then I realized that someone was studying my fear deliberately and dispassionately from every angle. It was me! I found myself looking at my open palms and the fear was gone. For the first time since I was a child, I could see and feel clearly. And I was strong.

That night, I created a series of drawings to exercise my new-found freedom of perception. The next day, I went to class, eagerly, and I showed my professor -- and friend -- that nothing was wrong.

That is how I conquered my fear of life. As for the fear of death, the fear of death is merely the shadow of the fear of life.

Please don't take my story as an endorsement to use LSD as a means to enlightenment. LSD is dangerous. It can cause a person to lose their mental faculties, permanently. If you're an American born in the 50s or 60s you probably know someone with fried synapses. I was foolhardy and fortunate.

A safe and effective strategy for overcoming fear necessarily involves confronting it carefully and deliberately, preferably from a position supported by wisdom and love.

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