[The following is yet another chapter section from my upcoming book, The End of Fear Itself, and is in its rawest form. I have literally done nothing to it since I wrote it this morning about about 4:30am. I went from writing this to work at the farmers market, and now I’m just gonna upload it with all of its spelling errors, grammar fuckups, and no formatting. Lucky you. What you will get from reading this, other than the supreme advice on dealing with Fear, is a glimpse of what my writing looks like before I do anything to it. Enjoy]
I was supposed to be writing about laughing in the face of fear this morning, but I”m not sure where to go with that, so I’m gonna just ruminate on it on this empty page and see what I come up with, or wahtever else I might come up with.
I think that we take life too seriously.
Why do we do that?
I guess that we do it, because our parents told us that life was something to be serious about! Look around you, evreryone, almost, is overly serious. Work is serious, life is a serious struggle to stave off death, to get ‘ahead’ whatever that means. Ahead of what? Death? Disease? Hunger? Cold?
What the fuck are we trying to get ahead of?
Can we get ahead of it? I think not. Those things just are. Maybe. maybe they’re not.
The late, great philosopher, Alan Watts used to say that life wasn’t serious at all. It might be sincere, but never serious. For Watts, the purpose of life was simply to live it, much the same as to dance. Waht is the purpose of dancing? Watts would say, “To dance!” It’s not to reach a certain place on the floor. The same goes for music. If reaching the final cadence and chord were the point, all symphonies, or big-hair, rock power ballads would contain only one chord! But they don’t. Because the point is to dance; the point is to let the music wash over you. It isn’t to get to the end. It isn’t a footrace, in otherwords.
Are foot races really footraces? Not really. What’s the point of running a footrace? Is it to get to the end? I suppose that’s what most of us think. But surely not. If the point of racing were just the finish, they’d start at the finish line! There’d be no race! The point of racing, is to race! It’s the running that’s the point. It’s not the finish. If to play games of any kind were about the end, then we’d skip all that stupid shit in the middle and just start counting up our Monopoly money now, and be done with it.
Life is no different. In fact, playing those games, running those races, listening to that music, and dancing those dances, IS LIFE. It is the point of living. Hell, even doing that work is Life. It’s not the end goal. If the end was the point, we’d just die right now and be done with it. But the end is never the point.
Because there is no end. The Universe continues on, forever. And we are an integral part of the Universe. We’re not some insignificant speck, a fluke of Nature. We are the Universe, and the Universe is us. But there’s nothing fucking serious about any of it. It’s a game. Let’s play it like one.
And while we’re at it, let’s play it as a comedy, not a fuckin’ tragedy.
Let’s laugh till we fall on the floor. And let’s apply humor and laughter to our Fears. I think it’s the ultimate tool to overcoming them and sending them into oblivion, for good.
If we stop taking our Fears so seriously, they cease to bother us, or exist at all. The way I do this, when I do it, is to step back, like an observer, and just watch my Fear. Let’s take the Fear of Being Wrong, for instance. I know I have this Fear. So, sometimes I see it creep up on me. I actually notice it happening. This is like stepping out of the play, and becoming someone in the audience of our little comedy. When I do that, then I can be a bit more detached from my Fear. It becomes something outside of myself that I can watch.
Once I do that, I can see more clearly, the absurdity of my Fears, my actions, my thoughts. I can then realize just how ridiculous they are, even if just for an instant. And at first, this is all we can really accomplish. It’s like a mini-meditation, and in fact, that’s precisely what it is. We are meditating on our own Fears, using them as a point of concentration, but in this case, so we can laugh at them.
If you can get to the point where you laugh at one of your Fears, you will begin to feel a great lifting inside you. It’s as if you had been on a long hike through the forest, with a heavy backpack, and you stopped for a break and took it off. Have you ever done that? Or carried some other heavy load for a distance? The feeling of lightness, of weigtlessness is acute. It’s as if you’re floating around the room.
The feeling you get from laughing at your own Fears, your own absurd Fears, is similar. The more you are able to do it, the lighter you will feel. And you don’t have to wait for one of your Fears to rear it’s ugly head, either. You can just bring up one of them when you’re in a good mood, and make fun it it! This is actually one of the most powerful types of meditation, and it’s been around for a very long time. Ancient buddhist monks have been practicing laughing meditation for millenia.
I once took a class at East Carolina University with a religious studies professor, Calvin Mercer, who had a project he called the Monastic Project. I won’t go into all the details of it here, but part of the project was to meet at his home, one evening, where we had dinner, watched a movie, and did a couple of different meditations, one of which was a laughing meditation.
Dr. Mercer had us all sitting around the room, some on the floor, some on sofas and chairs, and they he told us that for the next ten minutes, a full ten minutes, we were all going to laugh out loud. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird as hell. And it is. But it’s also effective. So, for ten minutes, we laughed. And we laughed. At first, you have to force the laughter, because there’s nothing really to laugh about, or at least that’s what you think. But after a minute or two, you’re laughing at the absurdity of laughing about nothing, and then the whole thing becomes hysterical in and of itself.
When the ten minutes are up, the feeling is very much like taking off a backpack on an Appalachian trail. Your mind, spirit, and body are floating. There is a huge relief and release of negative energy and influx of positive to replace it.
Laughing at one of our Fears won’t give you quite the high you get from laughing at nothing for ten minutes, but it will give you a boost, and help you to get past that particular Fear. Eventually, the more you laugh at them, the faster your Fears retreat. The more you laugh at anything will do this.
Find things to laugh at during your day. What about the guy who cut you off in traffic? Just think to yourself for a second, “I have to get to the gym!” and imagine that’s the thought going through his head. This is what Paysh, Duke, and I say every time we see someone racing down the road as if Life were serious as hell, and to imagine them thinking, “I have to get to the gym!” always causes a bit of a chuckle between us. It’s not a fully on belly laugh, just a few chuckles at the other driver’s expense. But it keeps us from flying into a rage about inconsiderate drivers on the road, which is based on a Fear, too. Our Fear, is probably a couple of things: One, the Fear of Death, but I don’t think that’s the main one that causes us to go into road rage when cut off in traffic. I think the main Fear is one of Loss: the loss of self-esteem, or respect, status. If someone can just cut us off in traffic, it means we don’t matter to them, right? And if we don’t matter to that person, maybe we don’t matter at all. And that’s a big fuckin’ deal. We want to matter. We have to. And if we feel like we don’t matter, emotions boil to the surface quickly. That usually comes up as anger, the best emotion for protecting ourselves against potential threats, whether they be to our life, or our status, or sense of self worth. If we’re angry, we can act, or at least react in a way that might actually drive the threat away. Weeping doesn’t usually do it in the same way, which is why we men hate giving in to the weepy emotions. We go straight for anger. Why? Because it allows us to react in an aggresive way. We prefer aggression to retreat. Most of us do anyway.
But anger and aggression aren’t the sole realm of men; women do it too: some omre than others.
So, if you’re faced with a Fear, and can bring enough realization upon it to allow you to step out into the audience for a moment, notice just how absurd your Fear is. How comical. And laugh. Even if it’s just a little chuckle and shake of your head, it will work wonders towards your goal of being Fear free.
Life isn’t actually serious; it’s a game, a play. Let’s make it a comedy, and stop thrashing around like we’re in the middle of Macbeth or Hamlet. It’s much more like Dumb and Dumber. Stop taking yourself, and your Fears so seriously. Laugh at them, and be free.