Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rats and other fearsome things

Tara Brach:

”Who doesn’t know the experience of fear? Fear is waking up in the night, like Barbara, terrified that we can’t go on. Fear is the jittery feeling in our stomach, the soreness and pressure around our heart, the strangling tightness in our throat. Fear is the loud pounding of our heart, the racing of our pulse. Fear constricts our breathing, making it rapid and shallow. Fear tells us we are in danger, and then urgently drives our mind to make sense of what is happening and figure out what to do. Fear takes over our mind with stories about what will go wrong. Fear tells us we will lose our body, lose our mind, lose our friends, our family, the earth itself. Fear is the anticipation of future pain.”

Stephen Batchelor:

“Disease, ageing, and death are forms of an internal violence that afflicts all creatures; whereas natural disasters, viral infections, and terrorist attacks are examples of an external violence that threatens to break out anywhere. The globalized, interconnected world has become a body that is prone to these outbursts without warning. In a way that Baudelaire could not have imagined, we are capable of feeling the instability and vulnerability of the living system of which we are a part and on which we depend. Whether it be the appearance of a virus, a hole in the ozone layer, or a hijacked plane, such events are rapidly and vividly made known through the electronic media. They do not have to impinge on our personal existence or occur very often to frighten us. Mara’s most effective weapon is sustaining a climate of fear.”

George Orwell:

"You asked me once," said O'Brien, "what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world." * * * "The worst thing in the world," said O'Brien," varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal." * * * "In your case," said O'Brien, "the worst thing in the world happens to be rats."

Dean Koontz:

"Here but a step from the bathroom threshold, Erika experienced another kind of fear: of the unknown.

That which is abnormal to nature is a monster, even if it might be beautiful in its own way. Erika, created not by nature but by the hand of man, was a lovely monster but a monster nonetheless.

She supposed that monsters should not fear the unknown because, by any reasonable definition, they were part of it. Yet a tingle of apprehension traced the contours of her spine.

Instinct told her that the rat was not a rat, that instead it was a thing unknown."


Tara Brach. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. Chapter 7, "Opening Our Heart in the Face of Fear." pp. 165-166.

Stephen Batchelor. Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil. New York: Riverhead, 2004. p. 45.

George Orwell. 1984. (Originally published 1949.) New York: The New American Library, 1961. p. 233.

Dean Koontz. Frankenstein: Prodigal Son (#1 of 5 in the Frankenstein series) (2005) Bantam, 2007.

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