Fear at the beginning

Posted by Lynnaea Lumbard on December 3, 2009

It doesn’t seem to matter what it is—changing schools, starting a company, moving, writing—fear is always at the beginning. I am not going to make it, do it, write it. It will be too big for me, I won’t be able to meet the challenge. I am inadequate to the task.

This particular line of thinking seems to go on and on ad infinitum until one day there is a moment—sometimes ritually celebrated, sometimes not—where all of the fear just isn’t enough to stop the forward momentum of just doing it. Invariably, I have found that I do have the ability to do it, I can make it, I do write it. Except when I’m absolutely sure that I have it nailed and then there is usually something of Life’s comeuppance that has me realize I couldn’t have possibly seen what I didn’t know I didn’t know.

I guess in some ways that makes the fear a good companion—can’t get too cocky and arrogant ahead of time. Have to enter humbly with curiosity and presence. Nothing else to do. Take this writing for instance. It’s paragraph three and the words are just coming out as I simply sit in the chair and say go. Now. Or as the swoosh that’s sold a million shoes says: just do it.

What is the feeling at the point of entry when you go through the gate and stand on the other side of the door facing the unknown, like the Pevensie children in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Overwhelm at the vast territory to be explored, reflected upon, written about. How do I take on New Stories in a way that has any link with the passion in my own heart for how desperately I feel we need a new story of who we are, how and why we got here and what we can do about it? How to start with myself in a way that communicates the longing I feel, the possibility I know for us to make just the smallest tweak in how we answer Life’s questions that would rebalance how we are on the planet.

However small the adjustment in our worldview, the consequences are vast in both time and space. We, as individuals in any given country may not be able to see the long-term outcome. It’s difficult to look at the forces moving in our world and not see widespread drought, famine, displacement, death. Maybe “we”–my little body moving around in space and those near (or not near) to me–will die before there is a change. Maybe much of humanity will die. In truth, all of humanity will die eventually, or at least all humans. Maybe humanity continues. Yes, maybe humanity continues, morphing into a form or at least a series of beliefs that we can barely recognize from this point of view.

What might that point of view be? From here it looks like moving to the point of view that the universe is alive, that we are in relationship to forces that are much larger than us. We are not the center of the universe anymore than the earth is the center either of our solar system or our galaxy. We are beings who have been blessed with the faculty of being able to reflect on the amazing complexity and beauty of our world and to recognize that we are in a living universe that it is growing and changing, as are we.

Over the years we, as a collective humanity, have come to recognize that women have souls, that Black people (and every other color) have souls, that dogs and cats have souls. Plants feel and play music and respond to us—our anger, our love, our neglect or attention. Why is it such a stretch to think of the planet as living? Certainly we can look from afar and see the pulsings of rivers into oceans, the clouds moving across the face of the mountains, the ever-changing patterns of weather moving through like the breathing of an enormous being. The Gaia hypothesis is many years old now and quite widespread as a belief system. Why not the universe, might it also have intelligence, intention, a soul?

My favorite bumper sticker is “Evolution Is God’s Intelligent Design.” Why is this not obvious? There is no conflict here. The difference between fundamentalists and evolutionary biologists is semantic. Sort of like the story of the three men and the grapes, all wanting the same thing calling it three different things so they’re fighting. How silly. There is no possibility of looking at the wonder of the unfolding universe and our unfolding capacity to comprehend it and not see intelligence in the design. From the way a flower or an embryo grows to the rhythms of planetary geometry to the exquisite efficiency of the DNA molecule, it’s impossible not to see intelligence, design, pattern, elegance, beauty. In fact we would do well to follow nature’s design and when we do we have a much easier time of it as the burgeoning field of biomimicry reflects.

The question is what is the force behind that intelligence and how do we relate to it? Some see the equivalent of a person, in the form of God, who is doing the designing. Some even think “He” did this in a few thousand years and stopped when he got to us. Whether you call the force “God” or “Life” or “Universal Intelligence” or “Great Spirit” or “Evolutionary Impulse”, something is creating beyond our capacity to fully understand it—try as we might. It might even be that our trying is part of the deeper basic force of creation. We are also learning, growing, changing. We are being shaped and changed and expanded as is our planet and our world. It is bigger than us and it’s not fundamentally about us. We are not the only ones creating, participating in the unfoldment. Many other forces are at play. We can partner with the forces but we cannot subdue, subsume, or subordinate them.

To see humanity as it is now as the pinnacle of evolution with nowhere else to go–just us here mining a dead planet–is quite a narrow point of view and doesn’t take in the whole of creation. It may feel safer and less overwhelming to think that way, but it’s so not the truth. It’s like not believing in rain—it doesn’t matter whether you believe what is true, you still get wet.

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