Friday, December 14, 2012

Faith: The Absence of Fear


If fear is cultivated it will become stronger, if faith is cultivated it will achieve mastery.
-John Paul Jones

The last time I wrote about fear,Hello Fear I wrote about opening night of Cirque Du Soleil and a writing workshop that I attended that focused on imagination. Circus + imagination= fear? Didn’t seem like a natural fit, but it was. A month later on 12-12-12 I found myself at an all day TED conference on creativity that happened to be hosted at Ringling Museum (headquarters for the circus). Than later that night, I had  tickets again to the same Cirque Du Soleil performance, this time with my children. Circus + Creativity + More Circus= Fear? There it is was again, the same theme- fear. Except instead of happening while studying chidlike imagination, I was studying childlike faith. 

One TED speaker after another repeated almost an identical message on the topic of faith and fear.  A motivational trainer for professional athletes said: If you have faith, there is no room for fear.  A monastic nun who built a multi-million dollar church with no construction experience and no money said: Fear is the opposite of faith. A mom who swears a hula hoop changed her life said:  If you are fearful, you need more faith.

I never thought of it that way. Faith by definition is believing in something. Fear isn’t listed in any of the antonyms for faith. Same with the definition of fear. But it makes sense. If athletes fear they will choke, there is a lack of confidence, a lack of faith in their abilities. The nun had faith that a higher power would attract donors and skilled craftsman to complete the lofty project. If she allowed the reality of the situation( no money and no skill) to weigh on her, she would have been paralyzed by fear. If the overweight mom feared being made fun of, she never would have started exercising in public much less exercising on a stage in front of large audiences. She has faith that her imperfect quest to be healthier will inspire others to get moving. 

Later that night at Cirque Du Soleil, a beautiful ballerina came out before the show, put an oversized tutu on my 4-year old and led her on stage. My daughter mimicked the dancer by twirling and bowing with grace. I didn’t see a ballerina in any of the acts during the show. On opening night, they didn’t bring anyone up on stage before the performance. So it was a wonderful surprise. It never occurred to my daughter to be self conscious. She was just herself and either trusted the enchanted lady holding her hand or trusted that people would like her. It didn’t matter that she doesn’t know how to dance. She stole the show. The audience cheered in awe.

When I wrote about fear last month, I discovered that your imagination is home to most fears that never come true. As for how fear related to the opening night of Cirque Du Soleil, I spoke about contortionists and tight rope walkers and acrobats who tested the limits of the human body and defied safe boundaries. I didn’t even think about stage fright.  I knew from seeing the show once before that they would pick some poor sucker out of the audience in a humiliating skit. When they came in search of a victim, I tried to shrink and make myself invisible. They grabbed the guy behind me. While clowns gave him wedgies, unzipped his fly and humped his leg, I kept thinking how I would rather endure just about anything except being laughed at like that. So here was the same show, with a totally new take on fear. My daughter demonstrated what childlike faith looks like. The red faced guy behind me didn’t have faith. But even he played a role in the lesson for the day, he suffered the most humiliating public ridicule and still survived.

My friend just recommended a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway that is on my reading list.

Have you ever feared something and did it anyway? How did it turn out? Looking back, did it require faith?

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