A Mite on Fear

When I first started in paganism when I was little (and even before then in the pseudo-churches my dad went to for a while), I was always told you should never fear the gods. They always want the best for you. They can’t do any evil, they’re gods, and they love you so very much. I even believe this to an extent. There’s even an old story/movie trope that sets love in opposition to fear: is it better to be feared or loved?

I love my mother. I tell you what though, she often scares the pants off me. I also love my gods, and they scare me more than anything, even worse than needles (which I can’t look at without getting the heebie-jeebies). Should we fear that which we love? Can we?

My answer is yes, absolutely. That’s right FDR: you are f**king wrong you godless SOB! (personal vendetta, please excuse me)

Fear is both a process an a symptom. It is a system that alerts you to threats in your environment. It is also a symptom, one of attachment. Without attachment–to one’s environment, one’s being, to others–we could not survive as sapient beings. Think about it: what makes you seek a steady, well-paying job? Fear of hunger, of instability. What makes us seek companionship? The fear of trying to make it alone is strong in mankind. We can say other drives are at play, and I won’t deny they are. Ambition, love, anger–all these surface programs, our emotions, play significant and visible roles. But they are all just bullets without powder; fear is what adds the force to all of these. That’s not a bad thing, either.

Imagine how little you’d feel if you had no fear. Fear makes life precious. You needn’t fear your own death, but everyone has someone they do not want to lose. If there is no fear, there is no loss; without loss there is no risk; without risk, nary there be reward, no anticipation, no value. There’s an important lesson to be learned in observing that Phobos and Deimos are the sons of Ares and Aphrodite. Aphrodite gives us love and her children bring the fear of loss; Ares gives us strength to fight by keeping the fear of death in the form of his two closest sons by his side. She is the mother of smiles and he the father of tears, but we cannot even appreciate or even comprehend either if not for their sons. In the center of it all stands Harmonia, the culmination of all her family, the calm center in a storm of passion.

So please, appreciate your fears. Relish in the trepidation that you may displease the gods, if only to truly enjoy their blessings. Grab on to the fluttering of your heart as you approach that certain someone with an invitation for coffee. Drink in the fear of your own mortality, because you will die; take that fear and make something of it. Hail Ares, the father of your fears and mine!

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The City of Ares

I like my hometown, Livonia, MI. It’s quiet, safe, and has plenty to do if you aren’t an idiot kid. Unfortunately, it is located mere miles from Detroit, a place dominated by fear, murder, and sorrow. It is a city of Ares Andrephontes, the slayer of men. It’s really quite sad how low the city has sunk, considering its great past.

Detroit, I’m told, used to be a beautiful place. The Western center of automotive manufacturing, Detroit was a busy, prosperous city only 40 years ago. Of course, under that gilded exterior, the foundations of the city began to rot under corrupt politicians, unions in bed with the mafia, and the ever-increasing strain of race relations. Now, we have a burnt-out shell of a city and a whopping 298 homicides just this year, many of them children. This is home of Ares the Man-slayer. This is not new, however; Detroit has always been a refuge for the Bringer of Weeping.

 

Detroit was founded as a military fort and missionary outpost in 1701 by the French. It was responsible for guarding the Detroit River and surrounding areas from native raids and bandits. The French ruled Detroit for only 59 years before surrendering it to the British in 1760 during the bloody French and Indian War. Only three years later, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa would lay siege to the fort during Pontiac’s Rebellion.

Later, Detroit would become a major staging area for the War of 1812 between the young United States and the British Empire. The battle over and for the Detroit River would continue in spats, and the British would eventually take Detroit with only two wounded, even though they were outnumbered by approximately 50%. & Americans lost their lives to British Cannon, making the siege one of the least bloody in history.

During the period of the American Civil War, Detroit served as a major stop on the underground railroad, where slaves would jump ship to nearby Windsor. Before being promoted to general, Ulysses Grant would be stationed at Detroit, and another famous officer, George Custer, lead the Michigan Brigade from Detroit. Detroit would also produce the 24th MI Infantry Regiment, which suffered over 80% casualties at Gettysburg . It was also during this time, in 1863, that Detroit would experience its first race riot, which left at least two dead and 35 buildings completely destroyed.

The World War II era would bring more war and violence to Detroit. In response to Hitler and Emperor Hirohito, Detroit would shift its great manufacturing capability to wartime use, earning it the nickname “The Arsenal of Democracy”. The Ford Motor Company would convert the Willow Run plant into a bomber factory, churning out a whopping one B-24 Liberator an hour, with pilots taking off to deliver the aircraft straight from the assembly line. In 1943, Detroit would hold yet another race riot, leaving 34 people dead; the Army was deployed to end the riot.

In 1967, Detroit would see its worst race riots yet. With 43 death, almost 500 injured, and over 2000 buildings destroyed, it stands as the third-worst riot in US history. You can still travel down the streets of the city and see the shells of the buildings left untouched even 40 years after the riots. It is after this point that Detroit became polarized, and self-segregation has led to Detroit becoming one of the most racially-tense cities in the US to this day.

 

It is this long, 300-year history that has led to me declaring Detroit a city of Ares. Violence has plagued the city since its founding, and there is no end in sight. Now, with very few, under-equipped police officers, dwindling city budgets and revenue, and the unwillingness of the residents to accept outside help, it looks like this grand city may soon die. Gone will be the city one hailed as the Western Paris. Gone will be the second-oldest Roman Catholic parish in the US. I love Ares, but it seems his influence will choke the life from the city I was born in. What a sad time to live in…

The Opposite of Fear

I’ve been thinking a lot about the subjects of courage and fear. They are complimentary and contradictory emotions and actions. Both are vital to our existence. Both are also under the auspices of Ares. Recent events in my life have brought thoughts of fear and courage to the forefront, so I thought I’d discuss some anecdotes and why we need both fear and courage in the world, and how we can weave into our spiritual lives.

My first story is slightly old. A few months ago, a friend of mine had an existential crisis wherein she started asking the big questions about life, namely ‘is there a point’ and ‘what if there’s no God’. She assessed her life and her happiness and the mere thought of it being whisked away at any given moment literally terrified her, and she would start having panic attacks and crying inconsolably. It really broke my heart; while I once asked these same questions, it’s hard for me (and I’d assume others) who have already made their mind up on the matter. It is very difficult for me to see someone in that kind of pain.

Anyway, my friend decided I was probably best equipped to help her deal with her crisis. While I was flattered, there is another theological block in the way: she is a Lutheran and a regular church-goer. Not exactly my forte. In addition to her being terrified, I was apprehensive because I didn’t want to be responsible for aiding someone in losing their faith in the world. So, I gave her what advice I could, performed some minor miracles, and gave her my copy of De Anima, because everyone needs a little more Aristotle. She got through it, and we’ve had fun having theological discussions ever since.

My next story also involves a friend. He passed away this week when his aircraft went down in the Horn of Africa. He’s one of the best warriors I’ve ever known, and despite the obvious and eventually fatal danger of his job, not once did I ever hear of him complaining. I can only imagine the fear he felt in the last moments of his life as his plane fell from the sky. Yet, despite that fear, I know he would not have panicked. I bet if I could hear the voices on the recorder his would still be as calm and clear as ever. Most of us will never have to look our own demise in the face so unexpectedly or so intimately, and I doubt I’d be as graceful.

My last little anecdote involves a young lady I met recently. With dark curly hair, a bright smile, and a mind so sharp you can cut yourself on it, she is pretty much everything I’m looking for in a mate, and probably more. I mean, she’s a teacher and felt that wasn’t enough, so she’s gone back to school to become a pediatric oncologist. While it may be too soon to say, she is definitely “the one” material. I knew I had to talk to her and ask her out, but if you’ve gotten anything from my blog so far, you probably understand I’m not on speaking terms with emotion like that.

That’s where I had one of those little spiritual epiphanies. If I let my fear stand in the way, I’d always be haunted by the “what if”, so I made my move. We’ve been chatting back and forth for the past three days, so needless to say it went well. I’d like to say it was my attempt at being courageous that made things work, but I know I had help. It sounds silly, but as much as I was afraid I’d get rejected, I was afraid of how I’d look in front of my gods.

I like to think that Ares, as the god of courage and manliness, but also of fear and panic, is constantly testing everyone. It may be vanity or hubris, but I think the gods take at least cursory interest in our lives. We obviously feel fear for a reason; we’d probably be extinct without it, as it keeps us from jumping into volcanoes, hugging bloodthirsty beasts, or pressing the big red nuke button (or it should). Fear can put necessary limits on our actions to prevent us from being another Darwin Award recipient.

Fear is also a hinderance, which is why we have courage. If you let fear creep into every facet of your life, you become unproductive and paranoid. Just look at OWS movement or the Tea Party – both are essentially ruled by fear as much as anything else. It takes courage to stop and admit your own faults and turn them around. Being courageous isn’t about being fearless, it’s about acknowledging that fear and moving past it. The most satisfying and fulfilling things in life – finding a partner, getting that dream job, having children, travelling the world – all these things involve risk, sometimes serious risk. It is this risk that creates fear, but moving past that fear is what makes those things worth doing.

Being courageous is not easy, and it’s not meant to be. Only you can decide the level of risk you are willing to take on. Sometimes, you will fail. You will probably fail more times than you succeed. It is that failure, that ability to move beyond fear that makes a person strong. Fear results in being forgotten, courage makes you immortal (figuratively speaking). Follow Ares past fear and into strength. Be bold or go home.