I’ve been thinking….

If the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, I’m afraid eliminating our own fear is still only part of the answer.

What about your fear? What if your fear drives you to become alarmed about me for some reason, and to pick up a brick and try to brain me with it? Now I’m afraid of you. And we’re both afraid.

This does not seem to be moving in the right direction.

So for me not to be afraid, you can’t be, either (at least as long as you intend to hit me in the head with that brick). But let’s say, since you’re a reasonable person, that we manage to talk it over and you and I both decide we have nothing to fear from one another. That’s great. We even have a beer over it, and are feeling pretty brotherly. You drop the brick on the floor.

But what about that guy at the next table? He is suspicious of detente, or blue shirts, or the voices in his head tell him God demands a human sacrifice. Today. Who knows why. It could be anything. Maybe it’s my shirt (although I pray it’s yours).

But he picks up that brick you dropped and now wants to brain us both with it. It doesn’t matter which one, either. He’s willing to take it as it comes. Just start with one and then move onto braining the other. The voices weren’t too specific about the precise methods, just really insistent to brain someone NOW!

But — and this is getting a little monotonous, isn’t it? — now we’re both afraid again. This guy, who neither of us knows, has the intention to kill us with your brick. And I have the sinking feeling that if we’re able to deal with this guy somehow (convince him to stop being afraid, or, as a practical option, just shooting him), there will just be more willing to follow in his footsteps.

I don’t know about you, but I’m discouraged. I thought it was just a matter of managing my own fear, and by helping you to manage yours I did that, and more. But there seems to be no end of it, at least theoretically. It’s our ape nature; we’re a contentious and jealous and paranoid lot, I guess.

I guess it does come down to what FDR said, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” But what he didn’t say — which would have really messed up the lovely symetry and rhythm of that speech, after all — was that we really can’t totally eliminate fear, either.

All we can do is get a grip on ourselves. If we act as though we have no fear, we’ll eventually have some hope of becoming fearless.

But I know one thing for sure… continually giving into fear, and letting it control what we do, does nothing to lessen it’s power.

And that scares me.

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