What do you fear most? I stared at the question on my screen. There was no one here asking me in person so no one to impress with a clever answer. This was an opportunity with no impurity – nothing to distract me from honesty, nothing to prevent me from seeing my own truth. I sat, looking at that question for several minutes, searching through my undisclosed fears – all those nightmare possibilities I will not discuss with anyone, for fear that they would think less of me.
Was that it? I wondered. Was my greatest fear that I would lose status, lose face as a result of honest disclosure? I thought not. In this world, in this time, there are and always will be people who think highly of you and others who are dismissive of your worth – often because of what they feel about themselves, the issues that they are here to deal with in this lifetime. And those opinions - they will rise and fall like the tides and the passing of the seasons, for opinion is empty, illusionary; here for a moment then gone with the generation. There are deeper concerns to fear.
I dug deeper in search of an answer to that most searching of questions, though all the while I wanted to get up and walk away from the screen. No one would know if I decided to avoid the issue. No one would know if I stuffed the whole thing back down in to my psyche and pretended I had never seen it. But there again, if I failed to answer it now, it would always be there, sitting like a monk in the Lotus position, assuming nothing, waiting until I decided to return to it. And if not this question, then which other is more important? If the time to address it is not now, then when? I sat, staring at the screen, wondering what the answer might be, what it would take to make me articulate my greatest fear. A vicious dog cornering me? A random madman with a knife bursting into the room where I sat? Staring down the barrel of a terrorist’s gun? I do not know how I would react to any of these were they to happen. I am uneasy with the possibility that I might not conduct myself with honour when confronted with something life-threatening. But I do not know and cannot know until such a moment occurs, if it ever does.
So I sat on, finally facing that question, taking it in an arm lock and wrestling with it, stepping past my fear of the answer in my determination to know what that answer was.
‘Tell me your name,’ I might have cried, as did the biblical Jacob, when he wrestled with that unknown assailant in the darkness. On they fought, grappling with one another until the sun began to rise over the horizon. Sweat drenched and ragged, battled to the dirt in the weariness of it, that unnamed man touched Jacob in the hollow of his thigh, such that for the rest of his life he limped, always reminded of that greatest battle of his life. Every external conflict he ever faced during his long life after was as nothing, a mere distraction from the great business of discovering and naming that man. When they were done, just as the sun’s rays licked at their feet, the assailant left him and Jacob knew he had wrestled with God.
And me? Oh yes I got my answer, sitting in front of the screen. I even typed it, watching the letters form a single word that I looked at long and deep, touched in the hollow of my own thigh by the awareness that I had gained. And no, I will not be sharing the answer with you today. It will never be named. For I have a much more important question to leave you with:
What is it that you fear most?