Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. (The Book of the Law, III, v. 17)
Fears are something everybody has, and most everyone denies having. Sometimes, we coyly admit to phobias; and we easily project such ‘big’ fears onto other people, asking incredulously why they aren’t afraid of snakes, ghosts, chemicals in their food, racial group X or political faction Y. Yet we also conceal a huge number of things that we rationalise to the point we convince ourselves they aren’t governing factors in our lives.
Whenever I told people I lived in Mexico (as I did for five and a half years), I was always asked about criminal gangs. Yet apart from twice seeing men with face-tattoos, none of whom appeared armed, I never encountered any criminals other than a couple of cab-drivers who jacked up their prices when they saw I was a gringo. I did get stung by bees, wasps and scorpions, I fell down a rocky hillside and skinned my forearm, and one time, the 20-year old car I was driving spun out on the highway when the brakes went funny …but that was about it. The fear in each case was temporary, and was related to an immediate threat.
Mexico can be annoying, depressing in the amount of litter and mess you encounter, and frustratingly inefficient. I just rarely felt scared there, aside from it being part of an increasing feeling of isolation that came with time.
A week ago I returned to live in Toronto, and in a couple of days I found a basic level of myself was scared stiff. The sheer complexity of life here seemed terrifying, after so long spent living with a rainwater-fed water supply, cows wandering past the front gate and vultures wheeling gracefully overhead every morning. I’d let most of my city reflexes atrophy, and there was suddenly simply too much of … everything.
Years ago, when I moved downtown from the outer ’burbs, a crazy-wise friend of mine remarked, “Ah, you’re going to work on fear-based issues.” At the time, I didn’t see his point, but this time around, I do.
If you stay in the city, you don’t register the overloads as fear. Move away then return, and it hits you. There’s simply so much you have to do here, and to negotiate. Life-requirements I’ve come to dismiss as irrelevant have crowded straight to the fore, and demand attention. You’re just expected to buy, consume and participate. And city life in a modern western nation requires us to organise considerable amounts of information, and as fast as possible. It stimulates the neural connections, but it sets the rest of the nervous system on edge.
Since I did live in and around this city for 38 years, I assume I’ll re-adapt in a short time. But part of the adaptation is about making myself find, acquire and manage a bunch of things that I can’t quite convince myself I need. There’s a wave of stuff coming at me, and the demands all of that makes are scary. Because it’s all about making myself supposedly more comfortable, it seems odd to attribute fear to it: but coming in cold, I sense the assault on your personal integrity that lurks within the consumerism.
I know this is an old story; and part of the appeal of neo-paganism, like previous counter-cultural movements, has been the desire to simplify life. I just never noticed before, when I lived according to city rules without much reflection, how much mental energy it takes simply to live in a modern city. The demand to handle all of it syphons off an immense amount of mental juice.
While I wait for my sensitivity to shut down a little, I’m finding myself morbidly fascinated, watching how external complexities and pressures produce these small shudders and currents of fear. If our aim is to align ourselves with a core group of truths lying within ourselves, the disruption of the spontaneous reflect-and-respond actions of the mind that the materialistic pressures of city-life produce is one more obstacle to overcome.
Love is the law, love under will,