A friend has loaned me a book. Common enough occurrence. I was skeptical from the start, but she told me it was good: Conversations with God. I accepted it because I think it’s often prudent to withhold judgment on things I’ve not tried. I took the book home. Actually opening it to begin reading took quite a long time. I am glad I did, though.
No, I do not like the book at all–its didacticism tired me and the simplistic formula of continually repeating, “no, I don’t follow you,” or “say that again?” was tiresome. Then in the first twenty pages it hit upon something, a big something, a powerful something. Neale Donald Walsch postulates that everything that motivates human kind stems from one of two emotions and only one. These two that he puts forth are love and fear. He holds them up as opposites, a duality, poles not on a continuum, but absolutes, for the so-called “Sponsoring Thought” of any emotion can have root in only one of these. He says that “fear-based love” is rooted in a lie, and that fear “contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hoards harms.” he says of love that it “expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals.” Opposites in every way. Is it all rooted in love or fear? Does he mean for me to believe that righteous indignation has its root in love, and anger over abandonment in fear? Anger has but two flavors? Or is it that there is no such thing as anger at all and one only experiences it as an outgrowth of fear be cause it’s a “negative” emotion?
What then, I wonder, is awe? In this model there is no space for the sheer terror, smallness, wonderment and joy that is wrapped up in this sensation. There is no room in this schematic to encompass all the strange whorls of emotion, everything from dread to hope that can be swept up in standing before a thing so much greater, older, wiser, deeper, stranger than oneself. What was it I felt before the great Triceratops in the hall of the Smithsonian, I tiny and trembling, shaken to the core and crying like a child, voices echoing through my very bones? These experiences had root in neither fear nor love. They were of awe. And I would say hope has no place in his diagram, nor curiosity, glee, selfishness, a sense of ease, anger, or peace. These are all emotions in the human scope. We feel moved by things sometimes for which we have no name. To call them all fear or love narrows the breadth and glory of joys, shames us for our pain and misery, blames the victim of poverty for their own aching. No.
And of fear alone? Fear can, yes, make one shrink, draw inward and hide. Fear also shows us where the boundaries are. Fear can dare us to test them, fear can keep us safe. And while I do not agree with everything she has written, Starhawk does say this well: “where there’s fear, there’s power.” In the roiling pit of fear lies the well of transformation.
As for the book? Though I am not enjoying it for its own sake, I will continue to read. I have learned the hard way not to discount lessons wrapped in contrary packages. This lesson learned, however, is one which must often be repeated.