Fear not only plays a major part in the stories written by our most revered writers it is an ever-present experience in all our lives. But the “story” or experience of fear in P-B and the experience of fear in P-A are radically different because in P-A fear does not exist. Now that I have your attention let me introduce you to the topic of this essay. The distinction between the relative and the Absolute is paramount at this point in the evolution of human consciousness. We must find the courage to entertain questions that make us uncomfortable—like the following.
How can an afflictive emotion that we experience virtually every day not exist? Because the one who experiences fear does not exist; remember—there is no “I”—the ego is an illusion. Therefore, in Simple Reality, we experience the sensation of fear but we do not identify with that sensation. Fear, we have learned, is impermanent. It comes and it goes. Our Essence, our true identity, on the other hand, is permanent and cannot be destroyed or injured or even frightened for that matter. That is why, in P-A, we can say that we live in a friendly universe—not because bad things can’t happen to good people—but because we are not the people that they happen to. I recommend that you read these wonderful stories that provide a fascinating insight into the distinction between paradigms B and A and what fear is and what fear is not in each of these narratives.
The Bear by William Faulkner (1897-1962)
It might seem unlikely that a young boy hunting a bear in the Mississippi woods would have a profound experience, and come to understand the basic reality relating to fear that we have described above—but remember that we all have access to perfect wisdom within ourselves. Living a simple life of solitude in the quiet woods hunting a bear is an ideal environment to have such an epiphany.
Writers often discharge their words as if firing a shotgun at a target called “truth” without realizing that sometimes a small piece of buckshot strikes home. These are the “hits” that I am looking for in the three stories cited in this essay. Let’s begin with our first piece of buckshot. Faulkner said in his Nobel Award speech that the young person must teach himself that the “basest” of all things is to be afraid. This is one of those insights that artists are wont to have, a realization that comes only partially into their conscious mind and then recedes like the retreating waves back out to sea into the unconscious leaving them stranded and mesmerized, asleep once again. What was it that Faulkner was speaking of?
We cannot banish fear by some intellectual slight-of-hand but we can learn to live with it without reacting. We can stop letting fear influence how we live our lives. We proceed with our lives in the present moment with fear as a traveling companion whose unsolicited advice we can ignore. We already know where we are going and how to get there. Thank you just the same! In other words our response to fear is “bugger off.”
The Second Tree From the Corner by E. B. White (b. 1899)
How does it feel when we have the insight that fear is no longer part of our identity? E. B. White captures that feeling when his protagonist, Mr. Trexler, leaves the session with his psychiatrist. He reviews the experience and gradually appreciates what has just happened. The doctor has identified what I like to call existential anxiety. We are afraid because we are alive and contained in the narrative that tells us that we should be afraid and conditions us to be so.
Now for our second piece of buckshot that has struck the target. The doctor reassured him that his fears were the cause of his sickness, and that his fears were unsubstantial. Wow! What a diagnosis. There are seven billion people on the planet today that would like to talk to that shrink.
He is right of course. Not because people should ignore their “unsubstantial fears” which they cannot do in P-B but because the fears are based on an illusion, that is to say, they are not real, or as the doctor said, they have no substance. What human beings usually do with their fear is to repress it or medicate it or react violently against it. And here is what that experience of anxiety is like for many of us. Each session would begin with a resume of symptoms—the dizziness in the streets, the constricting pain in the back of the neck, the apprehensions, the tightness of the scalp, the inability to concentrate, the despondency and the melancholy times, the feeling of pressure and tension, the anger at not being able to work, the anxiety over work not done, the gas on the stomach. Such is the human condition.
Or, if we are lucky, we can find ourselves in the present moment feeling the joyful freedom of being contained in P-A. Trexler felt invigorated. Suddenly his sickness seemed health, his dizziness stability. A small tree, rising between him and the light, stood there saturated with the evening, each gilt-edged leaf perfectly drunk with excellence and delicacy. “I want the second tree from the corner, just as it stands,”…And he felt a slow pride in realizing that what he wanted none could bestow, and that what he had none could take away. He felt content to be sick, unembarrassed at being afraid; and in the jungle of his fear he glimpsed (as he had so often glimpsed them before) the flashy tail feathers of the bird of courage. Bravo! White hit the target on that one.
Trexler relaxed into the present moment and allowed his heartfelt wisdom to emerge, he intuited the truth and that truth was beauty; the beauty that is always available in nature, the beauty of “the second tree from the corner.” He stopped resisting reality and the fear fell away. He was momentarily in P-A where afflictive emotions cannot exist; he was free from the gravity of neurosis, a bird on the wing.
The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
There is only one nemesis for humanity and that is unconsciousness or the inability to live in an awakened state. Therefore to me the machine in Forster’s story represents unconsciousness although the author would probably not have agreed with my conclusion. At the time that this story was published (1928) many people were concerned with the direction in which unfolding historical events were taking them. Writers and social activists began to project their anxiety onto some imagined threat instead of understanding that the many problems they feared were caused by the inability to see profoundly into the nature of reality.
For example, some thought automation had become a 20th century threat; others felt the threat was the conformity forced on the “organization man” demanded by the faceless corporation. Machines such as UNIVAC seemed to be able to “think” and these and other ideas found their way into stories such as Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984. We must remember that such “forms” as those cited above are always symptoms of human unconscious behavior never the causes of human suffering.
The Machine Stops is a science fiction story by a master story teller. The “Machine” controls all of the people of the world enforcing a mind-numbing conformity, just as P-B does in the world today despite the illusion of freedom. The false self is universally the same regardless of the nation, ethnic group or culture that might contain it. Human suffering has the same genesis regardless of where it occurs. We are kindred souls in that respect.
In The Machine Stops people live underground—a favorite locale for many modern futurist writers—which metaphorically says to me “below the level of awareness.” Ideas? Scarcely any. In P-B there might as well be no ideas because ideas in an illusory paradigm are ineffective in dealing with human suffering – they are divorced from the reality of the situation.
And now for the author’s intuitive insight in this our third short story on the subject of fear. Vashti was seized with the terrors of direct experience [present moment]. Since the people in the underground world are in the mesmerized state, any unusual experience, including awakening into the NOW is very disturbing. An experience of the present moment is unsettling to them because it takes them out of the comfort zone of their false self survival strategy. Simple Reality teaches that the survival strategies of the security, sensation and power energy centers are unnecessary in the present moment, in the NOW. The still, small voice can sound very loud in the silence of awakening. …all unrest was concentrated in the soul.
The creation from childhood of the survival strategy is a necessary developmental stage for all human beings but humanity is stuck in that stage and needs to move on to the next stage, the stage of human awareness. We created the Machine [the false self], to do our will… [but] it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, has paralyzed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. … The Machine proceeds—but not to our goal.
The “Machine” provides our basic needs, i.e. security, sensation, and power, but there is no profound satisfaction in having these needs met. “Is that all there is” is the appropriate refrain that describes the universal human emptiness that our unconscious story delivers. The Machine…feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being.
And so we are stuck in our state of denial. To such a state of affairs it is convenient to give the name of progress. No one confessed the Machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence. …But humanity, in its desire for comfort, had over-reached itself. It had exploited the riches of nature too far.
And so we sit, afraid to move forward (within) to the “silence” and yet we are aware that staying where we are is unsustainable. Then she broke down, for with the cessation of activity came an unexpected terror—the silence. She had never known silence, and the coming of it nearly killed her—it did kill thousands of people outright. We have no choice but to embrace the silence, solitude and simplicity that characterizes the new narrative (Simple Reality) and that will move us forward to freedom from fear. No, embracing the “silence” will not kill us—but failure to do so probably will.
References and notes are available for this article.
For a much more in-depth discussion on Simple Reality, read Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival, by Roy Charles Henry, published in 2011.