When I read Dune for the first time, more than 20 years ago, I was experiencing pure bliss. I’ve never read until then (and probably not after either) something so powerful and addictive. I remember that there were chapters that I was visualizing, actually seeing in front of my eyes, not barely reading. It was like I was already transposed in that universe.
That is the power of good writing. Or genius, if you want, which is a little bit more than good writing.
There were many characters, themes and symbols from that book that got a place in my mental space. But among all of them, one is the most enduring. It has been with me for decades and I still feel it very strong.
It’s the fear litany. For those not knowing what I’m talking about, here it is:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”The Dune
Fear is fundamental. Without it, we couldn’t make the difference between a life threatening situation, and a mild inconvenience. It’s a must have tool in our survival arsenal.
But what happens when we fear what we shouldn’t? What happens when we encounter situations we never encountered before and don’t know if they are life threatening or just a mild inconvenience?
Well, we give in. We just let fear go through us, and over us. We don’t fake courage. It’s not worth it. Total acceptance of fear, of the fact that we are terrified by some potential is, as surprising as it may seem, the best path out of our trap.
And it seem surprising because when I talk about acceptance, you probably think “identification”. Or “attachment”. Like letting fear take a permanent seat at the table. No. I’m not talking about that.
Accepting fear means letting it flow through you, not clinging to it. It means making fear fluid, not hiding behind it like you would hide behind a rock. It means jumping in, even if you are afraid. It means action.
And it also means you are still keeping your eyes open, you are not trying to block or avoid fear with some mantras, or other mental tricks. No, you just stay there, and let the fear traverse you.
Sooner or later, it will be over. And after fear finished going through you, “only I will remain”. You’re not only surviving, you’re thriving. You used fear, you rode it just like Paul Atreides was riding desert worms.
Something to ponder, especially in today’s world, in which fear is institutionalized, weaponized, and used cynically to keep the weak in control, and the greedy in charge.