Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sixth New Baby

So I’m having my sixth baby. I’m due to give birth in a month, but this particular baby has decided to be troublesome, so I’ve been having hardcore Braxton Hicks contractions for the past three weeks. It’s pretty exhausting. With my other babies, I didn’t have to put up with this until a week or two before going into actual labour.
I can feel the threshold of fear hovering on the horizon. It’s one of those things that I think you can’t actually avoid if you’re approaching massive physical pain. It sort of shimmers there, threatening, and sooner or later it’s going to manifest and become real. I don’t know how other people deal with this, for some reason all of the pregnancy preparation books mention it without ever doing a really great existential analysis of the problem. Some of them advise you to do cheesy imagination exercises, or yoga. Maybe the problem is just that all pregnancy manuals are written for people whose aesthetic is antithetical to my own. I’ll give you my method:
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, there’s this wonderful little Bene Gesserit prayer called the “Litany Against Fear.” I memorized this back when I was fifteen years old, and it goes like this:
“I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will allow it to pass over me and to pass through me. Where the fear is gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Apart from being put in a wonderfully appealing idiom, it’s actually a very good pulling apart of the anatomy of courage. You start with the statement that you’re not going to be afraid, which of course is never actually true. I don’t care what the Stoics say, I’m sure that Socrates had his private little Gethsemane moment somewhere out of sight of Plato before he went out and faced the hemlock tea with a smile on his face. At the point where you’re saying, “I will not fear,” you’re already afraid. Still, you need to resist the fact, to put it in its place as the enemy of whatever you’re hoping to accomplish. It doesn’t matter whether it’s giving birth, or making a scary phone-call, or fighting a Balrog, or asking someone out on a date; the basic fact is the same. Fear is the mind-killer. It’s the thing that will totally paralyze you, and bring about the little death which, if it is allowed to take root in the soul, will ultimately lead to total obliteration. There is no Cross without facing fear, and no salvation without the Cross.
Now you get to the acknowledgement that the fear actually does exist: “I will face my fear.” The determination to confront the enemy, where it is, now, without succumbing to the temptation to wait for that distant moment when it won’t be scary. There is no such moment. You have to face the fear, and you have to let it “pass through me.” That’s the lynch-pin image here. You’re going to confront fear, and you’re going to feel afraid. The fear will be actually present within your psyche, and your body, and it will pass through you. It will awaken like the Kraken in its depths, and it will rise through you on its way to the surface where “once seen by men and angels,” it will “rise in roaring and on the surface die.” So you accept it, you let it pass through, and then it goes. And where it has gone there is nothing, only the self, strengthened and ready to face whatever trial you have to face.

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