Oh, this world. This beautiful, fragile world. We need some super glue or a hot glue gun, pronto.
We’re in a heavy place these days. It seems like everywhere I turn, people are crippled by fear and anxiety of senseless hatred, pain, destruction (ME!). And if it’s not by the hands of man, then by the hands of nature. As I’ve watched my home state, my beautiful, vivacious California go up in flame—on top of the dozens of other tragedies that have plagued this month, this year, my lifetime—I can’t help but want to throw my hands up in the air, give into fear. I wouldn’t mind hiding under the covers for a little while.
…If only life could be that simple, but I can’t possibly tear myself away from the news long enough to seclude myself in a fort of blankets and comforters.
I want to hug the world and tell it that it will be okay.
I want the world to give me a hug and tell me that it’s going to be okay.
I am not holding it together. The world feels heavy and uneven and unsafe and try as I might to hold onto my sense of emunah, I find myself scouring social media late at night, looking for evidence of rampant anti-semitism or floods or shootings or the whole world on fire—literally.
I am trying to hold onto faith, but there is so much doubt in this world. There is so much fear.
So, how do we find faith in a world that feels so heavy with fear?
Pause. Definition time.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
This fear I feel—that we’re collectively feeling—is more than just a belief. It’s like a physical entity, gripping us in its claws, tearing away with its teeth. This fear is alive.
Here’s the thing: We can’t experience faith without admitting to all the other stuff—the yucky stuff. It’s like meditation: You have to acknowledge your thoughts in order to move on. Emunah without challenge isn’t emunah. That’s part of the process. We have to understand where we are in order to know where to go. If we don’t acknowledge it, it sticks. It festers. It grows into feelings of uncertainty, chaos, and fear.
In the past couple of weeks, with the world rotating backwards on its axis, I, like many, have met the pain and trauma of senseless hate by feeling the need to do something. Don’t get me wrong, that’s an important aspect of responding to tragedy. But, we’re also people. And, if we don’t feel our emotions—or at least acknowledge and deal with them—they’ll stick to our insides like gum.
“The main thing to recall is to have no fear at all.”
What does that mean? Like many phrases common in Jewish expression, I’ve used it for years, never really understanding what it means or how it is meant to be used (hence, of course, the reason for this project). How do we bring the gap between saying something, and living it?
Does it mean that we pretend fear doesn’t exist? Should we hold hands and skip through fields of grass while the world bursts into flames behind us?
Ignoring fear is like ignoring a really bad burn. A first aid kit won’t help you in the long run…
In order to move past it, we have to acknowledge its presence in our lives. Unfortunately, negative, uncomfortable emotions are part of the journey. The more we push them away—instead of moving past them—the more they pop up and haunt us.
So, how do we live without fear? If you want my opinion, I think it begins by recognizing that it’s there…and that you’re bigger than it. Life is bigger than you, says REM, and so says I. Life is bigger than fear, and you are bigger than fear.
HaShem is definitely bigger than fear. Remember? HaShem is bigger than all of us.
The first step towards moving past it is to integrate.
The world is freakin’ narrow bridge guys, and it’s scary. But, the bridge ends eventually. And, I think if we know how to express what we’re feeling, we too can be bigger than our fears. We become the bridge between fear and resilience.
So, let’s get it out there. Yes, we’re afraid. Collectively, it’s a scary time to be alive. But, if we become bogged down by fear, we lose the game, and we lose our chances at an amazing life. I don’t know if y’all needed to hear this, but I did.
So, Fear. If you’re listening, this is what I have to say:
“Hello. I see you. I acknowledge you. You’re not welcome in my home, in my brain, or in my shower. Stop calling me, please don’t text me—especially after 10pm!—and please take the garbage with you on the way out. K, thanks. Good bye.”
And now, I turn to you all: Dear world. I love you. So much. I hold you, I hug you, and I am here with you. We’re afraid, but we’re also bigger than fear.
It’s going to be okay.
Yes? Yes. Good. Let’s go. The bridge is waiting to be crossed.