Friday, October 31, 2008

Fear Factor

Surprisingly, my favorite part of Halloween ISNT the candy. Shocking I know, considering that I have a sweet tooth so mighty that I can and sometimes do ingest levels of sugar that would induce a diabetic coma or at the very least bring most average folks to their knees. No, what I really enjoy about this day is the kiddos. I practically get high from all the adorableness spilling out of the schools and roaming the streets. Those sweet little faces, eyes wide with wonder as candy seems to suddenly be EVERYWHERE and theirs for the taking. And the costumes......could they BE ANY MORE PRECIOUS? I saw a little fella this morning, marching up the sidewalk to school wearing a Superman get-up complete with cape and built-in biceps. His scrawny little 7 year old frame suddenly sporting pecs and a six-pack. More muscles that Mr. T. yet he was still struggling with the weight of his 5lb backpack. It made me chuckle for a solid three minutes.

In years gone by, I once lived in the historic section of my hometown, where annually they shut down the block for the little ones to run rampant thru the streets collecting goodies. I would sit on my front porch for hours as the parade of munchkins toddled by filling their buckets. You couldn’t buy a ticket to a cuter show. Since living in Atlanta, I haven’t really resided in an area conducive to many tricker-treaters and I have greatly missed it. So, yesterday when one of my favorite little fellas on earth walked in the door rockin it Storm Trooper style, I nearly melted down with excitement. I’ve written about him before as he is often times a surprising little well-spring of inspiration (see http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendID=30156294 "Batman Befriends" ) This little man's wardrobe is far from ordinary on ANY given day......I routinely see him sporting more than one superhero ensemble at a time. I doubt ive ever met a bigger fan of make-believe. He gives me a sticky kiss and I notice the roll of half-melted Smarties coating his palm. It seems he has started the all out sugar spree early. His Pop shrugs as if to say, "Why not, you’re only young once". He grins at me and sticks his candy-coated tongue thru the gap remaining where his front teeth once were and I get the urge to just squeeze his sweet little cheeks.

He's been in my exam room with Pop on more than just a few occasions, and for someone so young shows a great deal of curiosity in the experience. Instead of flinching when I instruct Pop to lie back so I can draw some blood, he inches closer so he can watch. I see his sweet little brown eyes darting around catching everything I am doing. He pretends the tourniquet is a giant python squeezing Pop’s corded arm. "Oh No!" I shout in mock horror, "the python is getting Pop!" He giggles and says, "Don’t worry, Ms Melissa, pythons aren’t scary." "They aren’t?" I question. "They don’t have the poisons" he informs me matter-of-factly. "And their teeth are VERY tiny" he explains, demonstrating their smallness with his sticky little thumb and fore finger. I sink the needle into Pop's waiting vessel and the blood washes back into the tub resting in my palm. Little man is now pretending my needle is a Vampire's tooth and its lunch time. He is making slurping noses with his tongue and missing teeth. "Hurry, we have to save Pop from the scary Vampire!" I yell. "Ms Melissa, vampires aren’t scary either" he grins. "You just have to wear onions around your neck and that makes them melt".

"Well, if pythons aren’t scary and vampires aren’t scary, just what is?" I grin.

He wrinkles his freckled forehead in deep thought for a few moments. I begin firing off a list of possibilities. "Spiders? Zombies? Ghosts? The dark?"....on and on I went and as I did his giggles increased. Each and every time he offered an imaginative yet concise and rational explanation as to why none of those things should make one fearful. Impressed, I informed him he might be the bravest little monkey I knew. "What things are YOU scared of, Ms Melissa?" he questioned. "Too many to number, little man, too many to number." He thinks about this for a moment and then makes me an offer. "Make a list of the scariest ones and then if you think real hard, I bet you can see how they aren’t really scary after all. Next time im back, if you still have any scary things on the list I will explain them to you, ok?" I smile, my eyes filling with tears at the glimpse into his pure, caring little heart. "You got a deal, big guy" I manage to say.

Later I could hear the echo of his question in my head "What are you afraid of Ms Melissa?" and silently I began to list them.
Fear of failure.
Fear of losing those I love.

I started to think about failure..... and the interesting concept that it truly is......much like beauty, I suppose it’s truly in the eye of the beholder. I remember reading once, not too long ago actually, something about Mother Theresa that not only shocked but inspired me. On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the "Saint of the Gutters," went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'" she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had "made himself the hungry one — the naked one — the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world "that radiating joy is real" because Christ is everywhere — "Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive." Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "But as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves in prayer but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have a free hand." The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama. Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction — that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared. That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were there, you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" But her priest saw things differently and he produced the book of her letters to him as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her MOST spiritually heroic act. He called it a new ministry for Mother Teresa,.....a written ministry of her interior life and says, it may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone. What she thought of as her greatest failure, humanized her and may actually reach more people than all the works of service she humbly did in the name of her God.
My mind then wandered to a little fella known as Dom Pierre Pe'rignon. Most know he is credited for the invention of champagne, but it was NOT the 17th century Benedictine monk’s intention to make a wine with bubbles in it – in fact, he had spent years trying to prevent just that, as bubbly wine was considered a sure sign of poor winemaking.Pérignon’s original wish was to cater for the French court’s preference for white wine. Since black grapes were easier to grow in the Champagne region, he invented a way of pressing white juice from them. But since Champagne’s climate was relatively cold, the wine had to be fermented over two seasons, spending the second year in the bottle. This produced a wine loaded with bubbles of carbon dioxide, which Pérignon tried but failed to eradicate. Happily, the new wine was a big hit with the aristocratic crowds in both the French and English courts. His greatest "failure" is now synonymous with the best of the best in champagne around the globe.

And what of the fear of losing those we love..... In truth, love isnt tangible. Its not solid or liquid nor does it breathe. It’s absolutely nothing and completely part of everything all at once. If we can’t master, control or contain it in the first place how can we fear losing it?

These thoughts began to tumble around in my heart like stray wayward change that has managed to find its way from forgotten pockets into the revolving cycle of the clothes dryer.....a repetitive tinkling of sorts that after a while seemed almost like a melody. What if little man was right after all? What if the things we tend to fear the most are like the ghosts and goblins that line our streets and porches during this Halloween season......and when we shine the bright light of Truth on them we discover they are nothing more than hollowed out pumpkins and old white bed sheets lit from within......and nothing really to be feared after all.


  • At 12:24 PM , Blogger Tamara said...

    I love hearing your stories! My Mo!! Your "Little Man" sounds like quite a fellow!

    I hope we get to see you this weekend!

    Love you!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home