Monday, September 25, 2006

Seagull & The Rat (Lesson on fearing Fear)

There is an amazing assortment of living creatures on the UBC campus. Up in the skies there are seagulls, crows and an occasional eagle. Flat on the land, there are dogs, raccoons, squirrels and some rats. Normally the animals live in harmony with one another, at least during the moments when I venture outdoors. This morning, I heard a scuffle behind the bushes. I thought it was simply 2 birds fighting over scraps of food. I cycled nearer and saw a seagull trying to catch a rat. The rat was trying to break free from the talons of the seagull. The seagull was apparently hungry and tried to grasp the rat, about the size of an outstretched adult palm. Hearing my bicycle, the seagull suddenly let go of the rat. I guess while on the one hand it was hungry, on the other hand, it feared any danger to itself from the noise coming from my bicycle. It decided in favour of its own safety, and the rat sprinted off gladly to the safety of a large bush.

What a shame to give in to fear, and losing one's breakfast, I thought. A greater shame is when the fear is actually from me who is simply passing by, having no intention of hurting either seagull or rat. Far from it, I was even hoping for the seagull's success, as it will reduce the campus rat menace by 1. Alas, that was not to be.

Isn't it a pity when we paralyze ourselves due to fear that is self-imposed?
One can think of not wanting to try skiing for fear of breaking one's legs.
Or to keep quiet during class for fear of being ridiculed for asking 'silly' questions.
Or to play it safe by sticking to conservative paths, fearing the uncertainty in risk-taking.

In the first case, fear results in missing out the fun of skiing. In the second, fear causes a lost opportunity to clarify doubts and even close the learning opportunities. Finally, the lack of risk means no new breakthroughs. The seagull lost its breakfast because of its fear of perceived danger to itself. For us, fearing fear may exact a higher cost.

Sometimes the way to overcome fear is to experience more of life. This can only be done when we live not simply our own lives. More so, this is better learned in living together in a community of people in our lives. Within a community of people, one can keep in check the unhealthy fear. The community reflects back the reality in ways which individual persons cannot do so on their own.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Eccl 4:9-12)


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