I saw the movie Divergent this weekend, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t read the books but the premise is fascinating and the film is well done. Part of the training for “Dauntless” initiates is to undergo simulations of their deepest and darkest fears. At one point a teacher tells his trainee that her greatest fear will be the last one she faces. Both teacher and student end up facing their greatest fears, in both the simulation and in reality. They also have a choice as to how they will meet and conquer those fears although there is no guarantee of the outcome. Some of their fears had to do with physical dangers and some had to do with their character and morality.
I left the movie thinking about the fears that would appear in my “simulation” and which would be left for last. I don’t have to guess at the greatest because it’s the fear that has driven and motivated me throughout my entire life- the fear that pursues me through every waking hour, in everything that I do. It’s the fear that I will die before I get to do what I love most in this life… the fear that what I love is taking so long to arrive that it will be too late for me by the time it comes.
While this fear may have motivational qualities, it doesn’t really serve me because what it mostly creates is a feeling of desperate, clutching, clawing, attachment. I get so attached to what I love, so desperate that I’ll never truly possess it, that I become blind and hardened, at times, to the present moment. I hate the people and circumstances around me which seem to stand in my way. I grow bitter and angry because I don’t understand why the thing I love eludes me. Of course, when I truly see into the intentions of my heart – how desperate and angry they are – it’s no wonder that the object of my desire eludes me. It can only come through love and it can only come in its own way and time.
This fear creates anger because I feel trapped by it. I feel trapped by circumstances which seem real and over which I seem to have no control. There’s no way out, no way forward, no way around. I can only submit to the reality I find myself in and everything in me hates it because it seems so antithetical to what I actually want- to what I feel that I was created for. Yet the things I “claw” after are external markers of success, such as jobs, opportunities, professional relationships, money… but when I stop to think about it- in those Life and Death moments of sheer desperation and anger when I feel so trapped- I’m not lashing out because I lack success. I’m lashing out because what I really long for is the work.
If you’ve ever found yourself in actual physical danger, when you realize that your life is quite possibly going to be over, you don’t desperately wish to be at the Oscars or to be on the red carpet talking to “E” or to be driving a luxury car up to your mansion… at least I don’t. During those moments in my life when I would have given anything to be anywhere but the place I was, facing my own mortality, what I desperately wished for was to be with my work. I wanted one more day, one more hour, one more minute, to just be doing the thing I loved the most- to be doing the thing that brought me such bliss. Imagine a musician- not in a concert hall, not in a recording studio- but alone in a bare room practicing scales on her instrument. That’s what I long for. And that’s what I can have, right now, or any time that I choose.
“Dauntless” initiates don’t cling to their own lives. They face their fears so that, in critical moments of choice, their first instinct will be to lay down their lives for another- to sacrifice their own dreams so that another person may live to fulfill theirs. I hope to continue laying down my greatest fear. I hope to understand, in this lifetime- while I still have the chance of understanding- that everything I need, I have right now. Nothing is going to change its pace or time for me. There are no guarantees that my greatest fear won’t come true- that I won’t die before experiencing the life I always hoped to live… but I can have the work; I can have the bliss. I can trust that Life is bigger than what I can see. I can learn to be brave, instead of desperate, as I pursue this dream.