My previous column on Security dealt with this theme. My cancer diagnosis freed me in so many ways from needing the stability and security I had previously pursued. Once you face your own mortality, and recognize that there is really no such thing as security in life, you realize that taking the risk to do something new can be the most rewarding part of your brief existence. This is true even if you fail miserably. After all, you will survive.
I am drawing on the wisdom of many others in this installment, but why would I try to say it better than George Bernard Shaw did: “This is the true joy in life … being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one … being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy … I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Most of us are so afraid to live this way. In fact, we are afraid of everything: snakes, lightning, rapists, terrorists, tornadoes, embarrassment, failure, success, vulnerability. I’m not suggesting that these things aren’t scary; only that they will be there whether we spend time being afraid of them or not. A Course in Miracles teaches us that we can live in fear or we can live in love. Which do you think is more fulfilling?
I used to spend a lot of time worrying about what other people would think of me if I did such and such—wore a certain outfit, said something stupid, behaved in a certain way. I feared judgment for the fact that I was still single, that I didn’t fit society’s ideal body size, that I don’t make a lot of money. Then I realized that what other people think of me is none of my business, and that it was silly to worry about that anyway. When it no longer mattered to me what others thought, I could feel free to share myself more openly through writing this column, having genuine and meaningful conversations with others about what really matters, and putting my feelings out there even if they weren’t reciprocated.
Living this way entails taking risks, but it offers tremendous rewards in return. Surviving is certainly better than the alternative, but what about something more? If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do? Can you believe that anything is possible?