I have now finished the second out of several books written by Richard Bach. “The Bridge Across Forever” he wrote after he’d met his wife and soul-mate, “One” they wrote together, several years later, about their explorations into the unknown and to many, non-existent. In the books, many questions were raised, many options given, and one thing it had me do above all was think and rethink and evaluate. I started thinking more and more about the motivation we have in life, what we let push us forward and what we allow to stop us in our tracks.
Fear is the most common force. More often than we realise, we allow fear to guide us, to make us do things we usually wouldn’t and to stop us from doing things we’d love to. So many times we find ourselves saying “no” without stopping to wonder why. We’ll invite people we don’t really care for to our wedding, for fear of them getting angry or hurt, though a wedding is supposed to be all about you and the person you’re marrying. Get close to someone? Never! They might hurt you, and the fear of getting hurt is much larger than the potential for happiness that intimacy can bring. Letting people know who you truly are? No can do. What if they don’t like you, how horrifying is that?
Fear is also what creates hatred. “Fear and loathing”, there’s a reason why those two words come together. When you do not understand something, it becomes confusing, foreign, and above all, scary. So scary that we do not even give it a second chance and see if we’d like it. If a dish has weird ingredients, instead of saying “well, let’s see what it tastes like” we instantly go “no, that is gross, I don’t want to try it”. Not saying I’d eat monkey-brains if I was given the chance but more often than not I’ll just try that curious ingredient before I dismiss it as vile and impossible to like. Fear is what we feel for people we can’t comprehend, people who are “unpredictable” or “lack empathy”, fear is the instant reaction at people who are mentally unstable.
If fear is what stops us, what makes us turn our backs on people and opportunities, then understanding is what makes us move forward, take the chance and go with the flow. Understanding and love are so closely linked as to be almost indistinguishable. When we love someone, we attempt to understand them better, and when we understand someone, we love them more. Some people are really passionate about their work; it’s because they’ve reached a deep understanding of what they’re doing and the potential of their skills, and can’t get enough of it. In “The Education of Little Tree” the bond between understanding and loving is explained very simply by the word “ken”. To “ken” someone means both to love and understand. It’s common knowledge that people who seem to have a profound understanding for each other, because their minds are wired the same way, also love each other more.
Anger and sadness are the middle-grounds. You can get angry at something or someone you hate, because it’s incomprehensible for you, but you can also get angry at someone you love, because they are doing something unlike themselves and so very different from who you want them, expect them to be. Anger is merely frustration under a different name. Sadness is more of an acceptance, that things are the way they are and cannot be changed, but you can still mourn for the state of it all. Sadness always requires a small bit of understanding, where you have realised there is nothing that can be done, but you wish there was, meaning you understand the issue and you can see it even though you can’t alter it. Anger comes from believing there is still something that can be done, and that the catalyst of your emotions can make that change happen.
Fear and loathing, anger and sadness, love and understanding. All just emotions, a switch in our brains and hormones, yet they govern almost everything we do, every choice we make, every step we refuse to take. The only way to surpass fear is to try to understand, and the only way to get to love is through understanding. The more unknown and confusing something is to us, the greater the fear, and the greater the potential for hatred. So next time you are on that high ledge, or see that large spider, or talk to your mother-in-law, or get lumps in your porridge, try to step back for a second and be objective. Try to see the thing for what it truly is instead of what you’re used to seeing it as, try your very best to gain an understanding for why things are the way they are, and then you can still choose to be scared, to hate and loathe, or you can try slowly to move towards a sort of understanding, and thereby love, for whatever is in front of you.