Unknowing fear

I love routine because it makes me feel safe. Life should be in order, so that I can predict what is going to happen at any time. Yet, an admonitory voice inside warned me: “Stop presuming you know what life should be like, just not to be in fear.” Fear of the unknown, I guessed.

My memory conditions everything I see. My brain filters and classifies the incoming data in order to make a prediction. This reduces uncertainty and fear. I wonder what I would be capable of seeing, experiencing, if I released the grip, the dependence on memory. If I suddenly knew nothing, not even that I knew nothing. If I looked for the first time.

I have been reading Jiddu Krishnamurti’s The First and Last Freedom. He uses a compelling, slap-in-your-face style to deliver a collection of unsweetened – while well-reasoned – statements. A lot to munch on, intellectually and psychologically.

Reading the chapter on fear, I realised to what extent this is the dominating emotion in my life. Perhaps in all of our lives. Most of what I call sensible decisions are based on fear. Fear of starving, fear of losing family, job, house, ‘freedom’, comfort, fear of pain, fear of death. I’m not arguing against sensible behaviour, I am just stating what it is based on, ultimately. Maybe fear is necessary for order and for complex civilisations to develop, since they need a degree of predictability. Not fear of punishment, but fear of uncertainty, which is possibly one of the psychological states for which we have the least tolerance. Fear is so pervasive I don’t even notice it any more, it is an essential pillar of my life, necessary to thrive individually and collectively. I am very far from being a rebel, I just look at this emotion in a different way now.

Fear exists in the process of accumulation and belief in something is part of the accumulative process.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

I accumulate things. I fear I may lose these things. I am now attached to them, linked; they become a chain, like the One Ring. I come up with ways to defend my things from others. Not just my things, but also my ideas. Ideas I ‘have’, ideas that define ‘me’, the person I believe I am. A collection of thoughts – ‘truths’ – I have ‘discovered’ and with which I cannot part. My ideas possess me, not the other way round. I fear losing my ideas, my frame of reference. And so, my own frame imprisons me through the most primal emotion: fear. The emotion that evolved to keep the individual alive.

Who would I be without my ideas? Fear again. Nakedness. Freedom…?

When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Wisdom, the first thing they noticed was their nakedness, which they then needed to cover. It took me decades to understand how this knowledge with which I try to fence fear, to reduce uncertainty, is presumption. The opposite of humility, which is openness.

Funny this lack of knowledge didn’t bother us when we were young children, when we had no idea about anything, and we were in constant awe. But we learned… and along came fear. Fear is fully based on memory, on the accumulation of knowledge and experiences. Even fear of the unknown, which is really fear of losing the known, our possessions in the broadest definition of the word, the ‘things’ that compose our life.

Do we now know what fear is? Is it not the non-acceptance of what is?

Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

Acceptance reduces anxiety not because I get better at foretelling the future, but because I learn (or unlearn) that reality is not what I want it to be. It just is.