"What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me." Job 3:25
We don't know.
I think that's what disturbs us most of all, plagues us in the stillness of moments, and is at the very root of our deepest fears. We don't know...anything. And we want to.
The encounter with Harry occurred nearly 20 years ago, and although I had a sense that something important had changed within me, I wasn't yet consciously aware of what that change was. He impacted my life, my view, in so many different ways, and on such a profound level, that, looking back at it now, it took some time, and the walking through experiences of my own, to finally grow into what it was that was given to me that day.
The one most important thing I walked away with that day is this: I was wrong. Mistaken. My initial view of Harry, my first thoughts regarding him were wrong. It's like finding out someone we love has lied to us. We've been steadily going along thinking everything is a certain way, making ourselves right about it, and behaving accordingly, and then wham!, we're knocked sideways with the knowledge of just how wrong we were. From that moment on, our mind automatically, naturally, goes to asking, questioning, what else have they lied about? We feel our mind tripping backward, to one moment after the next, all of it clicking together, like a line of dominoes on a journey to the ultimate finish...the truth.
We realize later, the truth had always been there. Evident. We simply didn't see it. Or...even more disturbing...didn't want to see it...because of what we were afraid it might mean.
I felt just like that after meeting and talking with Harry. But this time, it was myself that I realized I couldn't trust.
What do you do with that?
If I could name anything that began the practice of being honest with myself, it was my encounter with Harry. I wasn't even nice about it. The light of my focus to get real, truthful with myself, was brutal, like the sun hitting eyes that had grown accustomed to a dark cell. I didn't like the idea of being a mystery to myself. I couldn't understand how that was even in the realm of possibility. But it was. It was. Self deception, come to find out, is an epidemic. I had wondered how Jesus could forgive those who were murdering Him, but He stated, simply, how He could do it "...they know not what they do." Yup. A mystery, even to themselves. Never thinking to question their motivations, or their views. Simply making themselves right about what it was they thought they knew, and acted accordingly.
We don't know.
Harry asked me, "Why do you lock your car?" A simple enough question, on the surface, but asked within the context of the conversation we were having, regarding freedom, it took me awhile to understand why I felt a deep tremor within my being. An unraveling, a letting go, began occurring within that moment right there. I can see it plainly now, the truth, so plainly evident, but at the time, I was trapped, enslaved, by too much fear to go there and even want to look at it. If anything, I wanted to run, hard and fast, away from what his simple question evoked in me. It wasn't until much later that his question came back to me, like a light bursting into the darkness, a seed planted long ago, waiting for the time it would break through the hard ground of my mind and heart, that I finally understood why he asked it.
I've walked this road a long time, this road to love. In the beginning, I didn't know love was the answer, the medicine, for fear. We think the answer to our fear is more safety and security. We gear our entire lives in the attempt to stop bad, scary things from happening to us. We plan for them. We believe we are loving ourselves in making sure we stay safe from all those enemies out there.
But that practice is nothing more than a reaction to fear. That is us, listening to the voice of our fear within us...believing it, and worse, making ourselves right about it. We look at the homeless, the poor, the sick, the grieving, the darkness of the night outside our window, and all of it is merely a representation of our own fear. We don't want to see our own thoughts, or even admit them, "Thank God it's them and not me." But something tells us it could be. If it's possible for them, it's possible for me....
So to counter it, that fearful thought, we want to think we have control of the situation...those situational "what ifs" that whisper darkly in the background of our mind. Insurance companies make millions of free dollars playing on this one thing within us. We fork over, freely!, our hard earned money to pay for what? Security against "...potholes in a road that hasn't been poured." We even practice that in our relationships, protecting ourselves on a constant basis from what we think might happen.
We want to believe bad things don't happen to good people. We want to believe that if we're good, or if we work hard enough, long enough, have enough money, and a thousand other things we come up with in our mind to keep the dark at bay, that it won't, and can't happen to us. We won't be left by our loved ones if we're good. Nothing bad will happen to our children if we don't allow them to play in the dirt, or swing on the monkey bars. We won't suffer...if we build secure enough walls, or high enough fences around us.
And our world gets smaller, and smaller...
So we look at others who bad things have happened to, and because of our own relationship to our own fear, believe they must have done something wrong. Somewhere in there, they must deserve what they got. And we busily begin looking for it so it'll make sense, find reasons, latching onto them, anything to keep the truth at bay.
We don't see the human who stands before us, who needs our love, even if all we have to give is the act of simply noticing them, seeing them, making them real. Or the human who is weak, and scared from a disease attacking their own body, and needs the best care, or help we can provide. We don't see the grieving heart of a fellow human, and reach out our hand to give comfort, or reassurance, or simply...a listening, compassionate presence. We don't see the stars of hope glittering in the night, outside our window, or the moon that touches everything with soft, silvery beams of light.
What we decide to see, and listen to, and believe instead, is a fear that projects into the future, even as near and as far as the very next moment, secure, and safe within the knowledge that we know what will happen, as nightmarish as it may appear, and we move...constantly move...to protect ourselves from it. Preparing for the worst, locking our doors made of glass.
We don't know. And we don't trust ourselves enough to know...until our greatest fear happens to us.
There is something about facing, and walking through our deepest fears that frees us. I think about what Harry said, "I found a kind of freedom.." I didn't believe him then, but I understand now what he was saying. After living the majority of the past 3 years, and particularly within the past 6 months, with no job, no income, having to depend solely on the mercy and kindness of others for my very survival, facing my greatest fears, walking it, knowing I was doing everything within my power to rise out of it, and even surrendering my pride, and asking for help, only to find out, painfully, that so many were like Harry's parents...driving by, pretending they didn't know me.
I've walked through fear, boldly, bravely, choosing again and again, to meet each moment with love. For I know now, the only thing we can control...the only thing we need to know...is that, whatever happens in the next moment...we'll be able to meet it. We'll live. And not only that, we might be pleasantly surprised. We might find goodness there. The only control we have is our choice to face that moment, whatever happens, with all the strength of love and dignity and grace that we can muster. And sometimes, most times, we don't know how much we have. or what we are made of, until we're confronted with a situation or condition of having to dig down deep to find it.
Which is why I can honestly say that you, me, we're all made of much stronger, and more exquisitely beautiful stuff than most of us can possibly comprehend. But we won't know that until we let go. Let go. Love is letting go. What are we letting go of? Our fear. In each moment we face, with each person, or thing, who stands before us, within that vast empty space of not knowing what will happen, the choice before us is a simple one. Let go of fear. Do not be afraid. For when we do that, we find love was and is the only thing that was ever real within us, always near, always present...we just didn't see it, or even trust it. All along, we didn't know, that it was we who we needed to trust.