14 December 2009

No Fear

Two weeks was Thanksgiving. I know, pretty obvious, but some of my friends have been known to live off-planet. (Woah, my odd mood has continued another day. Great. .-.) Anyways, we had a family from speech over to celebrate with us, which was tons of fun. Because all of the kids, not including mine own dear brother, were speechies, the evening's entertainment naturally turned to giving speeches. Specifically, impromptu speeches. Being the lazy and egotistical person I am, today's post is my modified impromptu speech from that night. Read it and weep. Or not. Shutting up now...

You may or may not know this, but I participate in a competitive speech and debate association. Now, every year, before the start of the competitive season, speakers must choose which topics to write on, and which pieces of literature to interpret. A few years ago, I was considering Socrates Meets Jesus by Peter Kreeft to interpret. In the book, Socrates, after drinking the cup of hemlock in Ancient Greece, wakes up in the library at Have It University, in Camp Rich, Massachusetts.  He confronts the modern god of Progress, and along the way, tackles the quote "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," the famous quote of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On first glance, this quote is good rhetoric. It's inspiring, uplifting, challenging. It tells fearful humans to take control, get over their fears, suck it up and do something. It says that fear is our only enemy, that fear disables us, that it controls us. It's good rhetoric, plain and simple. It's also completely wrong.

I believe there are things to be afraid of. I believe there are issues important enough to spend nights worrying over them.  And I believe that the concept of fear is not one of them.  Try telling a new mother that she should not worry about her new infant catching SIDS, or that it will hurt itself terribly. Try telling her that she shouldn't fear for her child, that she should only fear the fear within. It's ridiculous! Care for others and concern for their well-being is one of the emotions that makes us uniquely human!

And don't get me started on the corollaries. We have nothing to love but love itself! We have nothing to hate but hate itself! We have nothing to care for but caring itself! I'm sure the young bride is happy to know that the love of her future husband is irrational. Are we to only hate hate, and nothing else? Can we not hate those who threaten our loved ones? How can we only care about the concept of concern? Fear, love, hate, care - these are all glorious gifts from God, who gave us the ability to feel. To experience. To emote.  But we cannot emote towards emotions. That destroys the whole purpose of emotions. Human emotions must be expressed toward specifics, or they become animalian. Humans have the gift of expressing exactly what we emote - we fear the man who brings death to children, we love the one who protects us, we care for those around us. But fearing fear, loving love, hating hate, helping help - emoting towards undefined, abstract emotions fetters us. In effect, it destroys our ability to sympathize, empathize, save, help, and protect others.And this cannot happen.

There are things to fear, just as there are things to love. There are people to revile, just as there are people to care for. But there is no justification for fearing an abstract emotion. And because I believe that our emotions are a glorious gift, I cannot agree with Franklin D. Roosevelt's empty rhetoric when he asserted that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."