Many talk about fear. Fear of death. Many offer solutions. I also like to talk about fear, either Zen style or cartomancy style, or both, and offer some insights.
But here’s my theory, against the mainstream notion that what people fear the most is death. People are not afraid of death. No one is really afraid of death. How can you be afraid of something that you don’t get to experience until your time is up? And since no one who died came back to tell us all about what it’s like to die, we can’t in all actually develop any real fear of it. Watching a horror film will instil a lot more fear in anyone than the abstract notion of death.
You can only be afraid of what you’re familiar with. Things like love. Or, even more common, the loss of love. We also fear the loss of identity to a much higher degree than we fear death. The same goes for our fear of scarcity or loss of home. We all know what it means to not have things. Not having things has consequences, personal and cultural. For many, the fear of not having enough money is greater than the fear of death. The fear that your rival has a better image in the public space is also quite nasty and real. Look at teenagers. They’re ready to kill themselves for what they perceive is lack of failure to achieve success in terms of projecting a particular desired identity.
I’d say that these types of fear are much stronger and greater than the fear of losing life. I’ve seen people dying. Not one of them were afraid of death as such. Some went out with a sense of horror. Others with a sense of regret. But having a sense of horror or regret is not the same as fearing death. In the context of dying, it simply means that if fear is present, then it’s related to losing the body, or the more conceptual notion that you amounted to nothing, and there’s no legacy.
Here’s what I think: What we call fear is our inability to see what is the case. As I prepare the lecture notes for a new round of Cards and Magic, in which a discourse on fear will feature predominantly, I think of what the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein said that baffled his colleagues: ‘The world is what is the case.’ Now, some Zen master trained in going beyond the world of ideas would say, ‘d’oh’. Of course the world is what is the case. What else would it be? Image, politics, identification mechanisms, embodied desires? Haha, if only. These are just self-enchantments. Many enchant themselves with concepts because they fear what is the case, or worse, they fear not seeing what is the case.
I sat with bones today, and cards, and swords, a red silk kimono and thoughts about fear. The Zen masters before me would give me the evil eye: ‘Are you sure you’re afraid of something?’ I’d answer: ‘I’m dead sure that I’m afraid of not seeing what is the case.’
I looked at some cards that I pulled at random:
The Tower, Justice, the Moon.
What if the edifice we build for a just cause is insane, a legalized looney bin? I started laughing because, for whatever reason, I instantly saw myself writing the script for the next blockbuster movie.
It’s all in the language we use to describe what we feel. But are feelings that require language to describe them real?
Wittgenstein would say, ‘get real’.
I’m about to get very real with some strong material for the 4th run of Cards and Magic, now in a special edition, due to a price dive to fit the times, yet increased flow of ‘what is the case’, and nothing but. I will not be a slave to any fear. Following my heart is a much better option. You’re welcome to it.
Registration closes tomorrow. We’re as big a group as in the first run. Over 150 are in. It’s Woodstock all over again, the unofficial name the students gave to the first run of Cards and Magic. We keep going like that. We will not be foolishly fearless in this course. We will be besides fear, smashing a few towers in the process, and letting only the moon shine on us. Because. Magic.