The Only Thing to Fear

The Only Thing to Fear…

As it reads in a recent STORMWORKS Score:  “STORMWORKS is a Life-lesson in “positive obsession,” the rigorous regard for History and its Heroes, the pursuit of transcendent Love despite the storms of the world and an unwavering belief in the Brotherhood of Man.”

I once created a life-long class of students by posting 4X5 fliers… on the bottom of garbage cans in the remote recesses of Boston city streets.  Whoever found those “most-unlikely-to-be-noticed” ads and responded would certainly become a student who could embrace the arduous rigor of the Chinese Martial Art.

With that in mind, and posted in the far-flung fields of the internet:

The Only Thing to Fear…

SLM Stretch 70sThe photo to the left was taken on that same "field" in the same Time-frame.

At 16, one year in the Timeline before “Only for Now,” a single event changed my Life.  Since it was so long ago and I don’t think anyone will take offense coming from a Man in his 58th year, I can tell you that I was disproportionately strong.  In fact, because of “obsessive” training that had me, a high school kid competing with their upperclassmen cadets, the Military Academies made every effort to entice. However, this was during the final year of the Viet Nam War. I missed the draft by mere months. For those of you who’ve read “Only for Now,” you know that I eventually worked with Green Beret, and then because of research and interest, discovered many other disproportionately strong people. 

When they were young they were “Supermen.” The feeling of Indestructibility is a normal thing for boys and some girls at this age. That’s why the Army drafted 18-year-olds.  I have known and still know 16 year-olds who fought Nazis, Imperial Japanese, North Koreans and North Vietnamese. In fact, there was a 14-year-old on the Bataan Death March!  Though connected , more on those special Men and Women in another story.

In this condition of being able to hoist up grand pianos on my legs, and move with improvised speed as you might see in a rehearsed and choreographed kung fu movie, I walked without Fear into many situations.  Such was my heightened confidence and Training combined with the indestructible nature of being a teen.

It was a foggy night.  Occasionally, the diffused moon would become bright-white visible, then retreat once again behind the veil of misty fog.

Walking across a large field near my home, I saw someone in the distance. In reflexive seconds war games were mentally played out. I calculated the variables in a potential encounter. The stranger moved in cat-like fashion and projected great confidence. When he didn’t change his direction and continued straight toward me, I began a counter-intuitive and psychological assault. Instead of pausing and taking stock, I accelerated towards him with greater alacrity, projecting greater confidence.

A chill ran through me when the shadowy figure seemed to mirror my projection of strength. He moved faster toward me. The hairs on my arm tingled. I could feel the temperature change and felt the moist condensation on my skin.  I was preparing for battle.

Within the enigmatic man, I sensed a formidable power. I prepared for combat, summoning breath energy, and walked with still greater forward impetus. Into the dense atmosphere, I thrust forth even greater confidence and readiness, indeed telegraphing a transparent willingness to destroy him.

My heart raced when the man approaching me seemed to do the same! I could feel the pressure of the air compressing between us! Not only did he accelerate his pace, and swing his arms as if pumping his blood and adrenaline faster through his veins, but he actually appeared to become physically bigger!

This cat & cat game happening in mere seconds and feeling like centuries went on until finally, I realized, “This is no man!”

It was bigger than a man.  It had inhuman ferocity like some unleashed wild animal. Yet, its movement was controlled like a seasoned predator.  “What the hell is this thing?” I thought! "I've never faced anything like this before."

The closer we got to each other, the bigger the thing became.  

Finally it grew so big… I thought for sure I was in contact with some other-world presence.  An eternal second later, it hit me.  It was my own shadow, back-lit by the moon and projected into the screen of the fog.

I had walked across that field some 900 times before I left Greenwich High School, yet I had never seen those conditions of perfect back-lighting, fog, temperature and feel until this one Moment in Time.  I thanked God.  The Universe had conspired to teach me an invaluable lesson, and one that I want to share with you.

It is said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”  Rather… the only thing to fear… is yourself.  

I was blessed to learn that liberating lesson so early on. And indeed that would be a great way to close, but there is more.

The Theory Put into Practice:

When I was 4 years old, two baby-sitters came to our 1st-floor apartment in the 6 story building.  In ill-conceived joking, the two girls went to the window and dialogued, “Who is that?”

“I think someone is scaling the wall!”

“He has a flashlight!”

“Oh my God… call the police!”  Etc., etc. You get the idea.

They helped me to develop an irrational “fear” of going to sleep in my room with the too easily scaled first floor window.  As the years passed, I had devised secret defensive mechanisms like a model rocket poised to traverse a string back to the window, triggered by two metal contacts made when the window was opened.  As a 5th-grader I had scaled that wall myself AND opened the window.  With the fear tested in a scientific fashion, I had developed a long-lasting insomnia that took me to age 16, an irrational fear putting dents into that otherwise indestructible armor.

On that same night, the night that I now call “Shadow-Night,” I had a dream… a controlled nightmare as it were… where someone approached the bottom-floor bedroom window in my Greenwich home.  I say “controlled” because I knew I was dreaming and I was able to control events in the dream.  When the scary figure banged on my window, a knife in one hand, I froze within the dream, as I always did… up until that particular moment.  Remembering the events and lesson of the field, I forced myself to move and confront the shadowy assailant.  You know how it is when you try to move within a dream but can’t? Well, I MADE myself move.  I got up from the bed and faced the window.  

By now, I was fully awake and actually living in real life what I was dreaming.  I ran outside to “face my fear.”  Of course no one was there.  But from that moment on, the fear was gone.  

Now as a Dad, I often tell my kids, “If you are afraid of something… face it.  The only thing to fear… is yourself.”

Train.  Make yourself powerful, flexible and confident. Face your irrational fears.  (Rational fears are good!)  The only thing to fear… is yourself.

Godspeed!  S


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