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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fear Not

A helpful feature of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is that it's cover contains the comforting words "Don't Panic!" Excellent advice. The same advice in slightly more archaic form would be, "Fear Not!" This admonition appears in the King James Bible 63 times, including, "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." and "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

These words crept into my minds as I processed the shooting last week. Michael Moore's widely misunderstood moving Bowling for Columbine examined gun violence in the United States. But, contrary to the line suggested by the gun lobby, Moore's film did not conclude that the cause of our uniquely high rate of gun violence was an abundance of guns. In fact, he noted that there are countries with more guns per capita that the United States with many fewer instances of gun violence. After suggesting a number of possibilities, he landed on the idea that our problem was that we were being constantly bombarded with news stories telling us to be afraid. His ultimate theory is that our culture of fear is the cause of our increased violence. I can't explain how Moore reconciles this with his own status as provocateur and professional fear monger. But setting that and his unfair treatment of Charleton Heston in his movie aside, I feel like there may be something to his theory.

In one of the few recordings I have of my dad, he is talking about his imminent death and he says he is not afraid to die, everyone dies. In the same interview he brushes off the idea of afterlife stating candidly that he thinks the notion of a physical afterlife is "foolish." The source of his fearlessness was that he was at peace with the way that he had lived his life, not that he knew what was to come. Conversely, I suspect he reached this state of satisfaction by leading his life fearlessly.

Faith, at its best, can make it possible for us to live our lives fearlessly. It can provide us with the satisfaction that comes from living in harmony with our surroundings, appreciating what is around us, and using each moment as best we can.

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