Fear (a meditation in honor of my friend Kevin whose courage is amazing)


As a child, I was afraid of God.  My mother taught me this horrific thing.  She said that we all walk on the razor edge of sin and God’s grace.  Seriously f..ked up! step one side and you sin, step the other side and you are “in God’s good graces and one day, heaven.” And then of course the Church explained to me that we are all sinners in the hands of an angry, self-absorbed, neurotic, narcissistic, megalomaniacal God – more like a 5-year-old emperor than like a balanced, well, emotionally intelligent parent or teacher. More like Nero and less like Mr. Rogers.  So, there’s that.

But as I have aged and left the church, I am finding sermons on Youtube, at diner tables, in coffee shops. I am finding that there is wisdom out there.  It does not only (if ever) come from clergy or bishops.  It comes from Youtubers.  It comes from authors.  It comes from wise friends (the unwise or stupid ones do not remain friends for long!)

The bowl seen pictured above is in a shorebreak glaze and has a quick brush-stroke of cobalt, leaving a cobalt blue swipe in the bowl’s interior.  I pulled it from the kiln this past weekend. When I hold the bowl in my left hand and held the brush in my right hand I felt fear.  ‘What if I don’t make  perfect Zen part-circle?” or “What if the brush drips on the way in?” or “What if I sneeze in the middle of the brushstroke?”

So I often hesitate.  I stand there.  Brush in one hand. Bowl in the other.  And guess what!? I WILL NEVER GET THOSE WAITING, FEARFUL SECONDS BACK! There is no time refund.  The moment of fearful hesitation between the decision (which may take time) and the action –  is procrastination.  “I’ll forgive her tomorrow.”  “I’ll leave the monastery next year.” “I’ll write the book next month when I have more time.” “I’ll expose the truth publically next month.” “I’ll get to work in an hour when I feel more like doing it.” These are lies we tell ourselves because we are afraid to act.  Yes, take time to discern and choose but then act.

We are afraid to leave the mark.  We are afraid to ruin the pottery bowl.

So now, once I have decided to do brush-work on a bowl,  I just take a deep breath (count to seven) then hold it (count to seven) then exhale slowly (count to seven), and then I say, out loud “Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Go!”  And the brush goes!  The hand goes.  It may not be perfect, but in not being perfect, it may be even better than perfect – it may be what it was meant to be.

What are you afraid to do?  What would you do if you were not afraid?

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