Posts tagged " fear "

We Shall Cower in Our Basements?

May 21st, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 43 comments

I just placed a library hold for a book reviewed in my morning paper. I have no idea when I will be able to pick it up. As in so many cities, our libraries are still closed. Why?

I understand that initially governments responded by closing down areas under their control. Yet, weeks have passed and libraries are still closed. What might have happened if libraries were privately run businesses that existed on yearly subscriptions? If they wanted me to renew my membership, they would realize that encouraging me to use only their download facilities might lead me to decide that my membership was no longer a worthwhile investment. 

Like many stores, private libraries might have organized pick-up appointments. Maybe it was time to resuscitate the idea of traveling librarians, who brought books (sometimes on horseback) to patrons who lived far from the library building.  Perhaps each returned book would be cleaned and put aside for 72 hours before recirculating. Owners and employees of a private business would be brainstorming to find ways to serve their customers. Yet, since the public library system and employees are on a government (read taxpayer) payroll, physical libraries, at least in my area, are simply closed.

I understand that those who are mourning the serious illnesses and deaths of loved ones are overwhelmed by this crisis. But, one of the saddest outcomes, in my opinion, has been the proliferation of fatalistic thinking, the very opposite of a traditional American can-do attitude.

Imagine if previous notable figures in American history were alive today and behaving as their modern counterparts are.  Instead of a General Washington who camped out at Valley Forge with his men during a brutal winter, we would have pictures of him feasting on venison at Mt. Vernon, similar to Nancy Pelosi’s tone-deaf shots of her ice cream selection.

Instead of hearing from Franklin Delano Roosevelt as we faced tough times during the Depression that, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” we would hear, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” I may not agree that President Roosevelt’s solutions helped to end the Depression, but at least he projected confidence in a better future.

On the eve of D Day, General Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “Pessimism never won any battle.”  Imagine what might have happened had he told his troops, “Now is the time to fear all that could go wrong.” 

In response to Russian achievements in space, John F. Kennedy said, “…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Today’s leaders warn us that not only will we not have a vaccine soon, we may never be able to manufacture a reliable one. Life as we knew it, is over.

If you will cross the ocean with me for a moment, can you imagine that instead of Mr. Churchill declaring that “…we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…, he might say, “We must surrender our way of life, we will cower in our basements, we will hide in our homes, we will tremble in fear in the fields and in the streets.” 

Are we facing a challenge in our country and around the world? Certainly, we are. Yet, it is hard to find a time when victory was earned through fear, cowardice and pessimism, the guiding lights for far too many of today’s media voices and politicians.

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Pandemic Pandemonium

May 12th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 47 comments

Oftentimes, when people start a story by saying, “I’m not proud of this…” the truth is that they really are rather proud of whatever they are fake-confessing.  But I am really, really not proud of this. What I did was just plain incredibly stupid. It was a male sort of thing.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even mention it if it didn’t help me make an important point for this Thought Tool.

When one of our lovely daughters turned six, she asked for a sleepover party. Accordingly, in the late afternoon, about a dozen excited little girls between the ages of five and seven were dropped off at our home in their pyjamas. They had supper together before burrowing into blankets and sleeping bags in our living room, chattering and giggling. 

That was the moment I donned my rented gorilla costume.  Beating my chest while uttering gorilla-like roars, I leaped into the living room and pranced among the sleeping bags.  Yes, I really did. I hate myself for this and all I can say is that it was a male sort of thing. Little boys would have loved it. (I was so sure Susan and our daughter would love my exciting plan that I neglected to inform them in advance.)

But these weren’t little boys. They were little girls. Sweet, trusting, gentle little girls. With their tiny hearts pounding and screams of hysteria strangled in their constricted throats they shot into the bathroom and locked the door. After about five hours (well, it seemed five to me, but it might have been half an hour) the screams had subsided to gasping sobs. Then they called their parents to come pick them up. It was quite a birthday party. For the next month, all I got whenever I encountered the girls or their mothers were reproachful glares.

I said that the purpose of recounting this tragic tale was to make a point.  It is this: Had I bounded into my daughter’s room one evening in that gorilla suit she would probably have looked up and said, “Hello Daddy, why are you dressed like that?”  It takes many people together to create fear, hysteria and panic. 

It’s just like a nuclear reaction.  Scatter twenty one-kilogram balls of uranium 235 around your house. Nothing. Now throw them all together in one big box and you’ve got—Chernobyl.  Hard to terrify one little girl but easy to make a dozen of them turn into a panic-stricken, hysterical throng. 

The really surprising thing is that adults are no different.  Walk in on your brother sitting and quietly reading his newspaper and yell, “Fire!”. He’ll slowly look up and ask, “Where?”  However, if you try the same thing in the proverbial crowded theater, you know exactly what will happen.

Groups of people can give one another courage but they can also feed one another’s fears until it becomes a self-sustaining reaction of sheer thoughtless panic. Take a look at this verse:

…and your foes shall dominate you. You will flee though nobody pursues you.
(Leviticus 26:17)

In English, unlike in Hebrew, the second person personal pronoun ‘you’ can be singular or plural. See this sentence:

I will now throw you out of this club.

We can’t tell if the ‘you’ in this sentence means just one person or a crowd about to be evicted. 

But in Hebrew, the word for you (singular) is different from you (plural). Thus, the correct translation of Leviticus 26:17 might read like this:

…and your foes shall dominate y’all (plural). Y’all will flee though nobody pursues y’all. 

Every day you and I get in our cars and drive somewhere. Imagine that every time you opened your newspaper the headlines informed you how many people died in car accidents over the past 24 hours? Suppose every time you turned on your computer, some uninvited banner revealed the accumulated road fatalities for the year?  What would it be like if everyone repeatedly warned you that getting behind the wheel of your car exposes you to a real chance of dying in an accident? Consider what it would be like if many times a day newscasters and pundits reminded you that America’s road fatality rate was 120 per million of population (which it is).

Compare this with the Covid-19 rate which officialdom claims for America of just double the road fatality rate. It is 240 deaths per million population.

If we shut down the country for a death rate of 240 per million, shouldn’t we at least do something about a death rate of 120 per million? How about a national speed limit of 25 miles per hour. That would do it.

Why isn’t this entirely logical restraint occurring?  Simply because politicians and pundits are not talking about road deaths. Fear and panic are seldom caused by facts and figures.  Instead, they are caused by emotions and feelings.  Celebrities are not tweeting about the need to flatten the curve and stop people dying in their cars. Neither is the media toasting our brains with non-stop coverage of road fatalities by state and age. We don’t anxiously compare our road mileage exposure with our neighbors.  But the media connects all our collective corona concerns and binds us into one colossal, terrified, corona mob. 

Yes, connection with others can certainly cause fear to flourish and spread like wildfire.  But company can also engender courage. Anyone who has faced peril alone knows how different it is when that same danger is confronted together with brave comrades. 

It falls to ancient Jewish wisdom to explain when we manage to stare down adversity with confidence and determination and when fear gets the better of us and we join our fellows in panic as we trip over our own feet in our desperation to escape. Escape what? Fear itself of course.

Commitment to a value system brings courage.  Why do military men always have stories of valor? For the same reason the military presents medals to those who exhibit that valor. The military is built on a value system. The result is courage.

Secularism is the formal annihilation of a God-centric value system and the obliteration of hierarchical structure.  Not surprisingly, cowardice is the legacy of secularism while fear and panic are its constant attendants. Secularism in the west has coated everything with fear.

A Scandinavian teenager wins acclaim when her voice trembles with fear over climate change.

Income inequality is frightening because it will plunge us into civil disorder.

People who swore to uphold the Constitution abuse their power to trample on it, citing fear for the end of the American republic because the nation elected a leader not of their choice. 

You must fear artificial intelligence because it will create robotic monsters who will attack us.

And yes, a panic- proliferating elite pulverizes our healthy economy, destroying lives, medical centers, medical research, civil rights and much more as they spread fear rather than dealing with an admittedly serious virus with mature and measured steps.

We’re long past the original fear of hospitals being overrun, so why not pull back instead of increasing the severity of lock-down laws?  Because hysteria and panic never self-modulate. The crowd continues to stampede even after it is evident that there is no fire.

Secularism has indeed made us all vulnerable to fear.

But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, and if you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all My commandments…
(Leviticus 26:15-16)

…and your foes shall dominate y’all. Y’all will flee though nobody pursues y’all.
(Leviticus 26:17)

Yes, if you reject God’s value system then you will flee even when nobody is pursuing you. Secularism makes a crowd fear just about anything. And everything.

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Corridors to Courage

August 3rd, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

My radio show audience knows my oft-repeated slogan—the more that things change, the more we need to depend upon those things that never change

It is my conviction that what I call God’s Biblical Blueprint is the best information source about those things that never change.  Right now, things seem to be changing as rapidly and as profoundly as we have ever seen.   Thus, we even more urgently need to know how to deal with change.

Here are the three most important things to know about change. (i) Change is inevitable; (ii) Change is scary.  (iii) Change can be managed.

Change is inevitable because God placed us in a world of time with every ticking second heralding the new.  Our ability to live safely and comfortably depends upon cultivating easy adaptability to new circumstances. The keyword is new—and new means change.

Change is scary because we humans are most comfortable when we live under stable and predictable conditions.  Changes in health, financial, social, and family circumstances are just plain scary.  Change is usually scary even when the change is for the better.  For instance, a major promotion can be almost as scary as losing one’s job.

Change is best managed by acquiring courage.  To guide us through change, the Tanach, the Hebrew Scriptures, teaches us the phrase, “Be Strong and of Good Courage,” or in Hebrew, CHaZaK VeEMaTZ.  Every time this phrase is used, it is to encourage (see that word courage in there?) someone about to experience major change in life’s circumstances.

It is found in the context of God promoting Joshua to be Moses’ successor.  It is found when King David hands over the kingship to his son, and it is found in the context of Israel confronting its enemies in war.

The first word, CHaZaK, describes having sufficient strength to triumph over whatever one is up against.  For instance, the first Scriptural use of the word is,

Everyone came to Egypt to buy food from Joseph because the famine was CHaZaK, strong in all the land.
(Genesis 41:57)

The famine was strong enough to overwhelm the land. Joseph’s wisdom in storing food during the good years meant that Egypt had the strength to deal with the oncoming famine. One needs the strength to do what one sets out to do.

The second word, VeEMaTZ, means, ‘and be courageous,’ which is to say, have the courage and the will to use your strength.  For instance:

With strength she girds her loins and invigorates (VatAMeTZ) her arms.
(Proverbs 31:17)

The Hebrew word translated as ‘invigorates’ is the word EMaTZ suggests that having arms isn’t enough — one needs the fortitude to use them.

Winston Churchill claimed that World War II need never have taken place.  When Hitler reoccupied the Rhine Valley, violating the terms of the Versailles treaty that ended World War I, Britain and the allies, could have confronted him and precipitated his fall from power.  Instead, they hesitated. They possessed the military capacity—the CHaZaK, but they lacked the courage and the will—the EMaTZ to do so.

Thus, Scripture teaches that we must first be CHaZaK. Be strong enough to do whatever needs doing.  Once we know we can, we seek courage to give us the will to do what must be done.  Gaining the strength is a matter of strategy. Gaining courage is more complicated.

Here are three corridors to courage:

(1) Analyze each challenge you face separately so that you are not overwhelmed by an amorphous blob of fear.

(2) Cowardice is contagious. Courage is equally contagious. Keep company with people who possess it.

(3) In your imagination, constantly run a video of your fearlessness while repeating the mantra, ‘Be Strong and of good Courage,’ or CHaZaK Ve’ EMaTZ.

Change is constant.  Courage becomes constant with exercise and use. Courage will always be the best way to deal with change and the fears it generates.


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