It is said that fear and greed make Wall Street go ‘round. I look around me and I would say that fear and hope make the world go ‘round.
I was raised in a very authoritarian household where my father’s will was sufficient for any and all decisions and actions in the household. He was not to be disobeyed. For me, the fear of “the worst that could happen” had always centered around physical damage. I had learned early enough to close myself off emotionally, so further emotional damage was not of particular concern to me, but it seemed to be the manner of control over my mother and my sister. Or perhaps I simply was incapable of identifying it as it happened to me. The physical damage was easy to see, and feel.
Discipline was enforced with a belt or a hand and without getting into the gory details, I will objectively say that I was abused. However, as I got older and taller and stronger, my fear of physical punishment waned, and so I began to rebel, as all teenagers are wont to do. Notwithstanding my newfound assertiveness, a lasting lesson had been impressed upon me: my father (and by extension I came to learn in the decades afterwards, any authority figure) knew what was best, and I was not capable of venturing into the world on my own. Such is the unseen damage I had not been able to identify or catalogue.
The ultimate break from my father was both liberating and imprisoning. I left my parents to join a church – in essence, trading one authority figure for another, one all-knowing power for another. The church, however, offered one thing my father had not – a reason for the commandments written from heaven: to “keep us safe”. Sunday lessons could ultimately be boiled down to “obey and you will be safe.” Eventually I came to realize that these Sunday lessons veiled a lesson equally damaging in its own way to my father’s lessons – that you should be afraid if you don’t obey.
You won’t be safe. You won’t be happy. But it goes beyond simple platitudes and it accuses the thing that the church purports to uphold above all else – the freedom to choose. Sure, you can choose, but if you don’t choose the way we tell you to choose, then you’re choosing the wrong. In other words, don’t bother thinking about things for yourself, but follow our pat advice and you’ll “be safe.”
I no longer desire to “be safe,” at least as defined by others. I no longer fear my competence to make up my own mind based on my own experiences, thoughts, feelings and learning. I want to venture into the world, following my own conscience, as educated by the teachers I have chosen for myself. As opportunities and choices present themselves to me, I no longer wish to cower in fear of “what might happen”. I now wish only to embrace the risk inherent in “what could be.”