Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday The 13th,Awareness Of Our Challenges And The Freedom From Fear

                 Today is an event that only occurs once,or rarely twice,each year. Friday the 13th. An entire series of motion pictures have been named for this day. Its become synonymous across the nation,and many areas of the world, with superstition. One can slice this bread of verbiage however they please. Yet in the end superstition qualifies as one of many words for fear itself. On this particular combination of number and day on the calender its advised by many not to carry an umbrella,walk under ladders,step on cracks and of course allowing a black cat to cross your path. The proceeding week has also been National Autism and Special Education week. Strangely enough,there is an often unseen link between this two subject matters.

                    From my own personal research it seems the origins of this Friday the 13th superstition is based on 19th century Christian mythology having to do with the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. On the surface it might seem like the stereotypical "fear of god" ethic. Under the surface is perhaps a linkage to something I experienced last night as I was creating my latest painting. I was listening to a song by a band named Mutiny,for those not in the know a spin-off of George Clinton's P-Funk  musical collective,called "Thee Funky Prez". Musically I liked what I heard of it. Suddenly this very intrusive rapper came into the song out of nowhere. I've heard this before and never been bothered. On this night I saw ghosts-flashed before my eyes and mind as an intense barrage of thoughts and memories.

                       What I saw in this dizzying mental flashback was much like someone changing the channels of a TV too fast. News about race riots in LA,the deaths of Kurt Cobain,Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls,the child abuse charges against Michael Jackson-someone known before hand mainly as an extremely charitable man with an all encompassing passion for children's rights. There were thoughts of ghoulish people in white makeup-maybe latch key kids discouraged with life and developing an obsession with death. These were all events I remember witnessing and living through in reality during the mid/early 1990's. A very strange type of generational post traumatic stress. 

                  For a few seconds I could feel the pure,unadulterated fear of someone who was convinced they'd seen an actual ghost. It was like being kicked in the head not by anxiety,but a sudden pacification bought on by fright. Of not being able to confront what I saw. I turned off the music,spoke to a kind friend on Facebook and the feeling faded. I began to have a realization this morning. The world in which we live is facing much change for the better. A change towards celebrating diversity of self for its own sake. A change towards embracing life rather than death,understanding rather than killing. 

                 Yet faced with the very embodiment of humanity's greatest desires for peace and harmony,many are retreating backward towards unusable older modes of thinking-reacting to the positive new changes seemingly as I did to hearing that song. So not only do I not understand the nature of my own fears. But have equally little understanding of why so many people would be afraid of something unquestionably good? Perhaps it goes back to the fears I had of seeing people during my adolescence put such strong emphasis on exploring mainly the darker aspect of their psyche: superstition and death as a lifestyle choice. 

                   Another thought occurred to me regarding this total embrace and almost passion for fear. When I was growing up I was very mistakenly placed into a special education class for behaviorally challenged children-mainly because I had trouble making friends. No braggadocio intended but it never bothered me too much that I was more imaginative and intellectual than anyone else in that class. What was bothersome was a couple of the students extreme behavioral reactions to their inability to accomplish their school work. One student would scream,back into the corner and hurl heavy objects at anyone who approached. 

              Two things would happen in such cases: either the teacher would call an "emergency recess" similar to that of a court proceeding or I would personally employ the old cold war duck and cover method to keep physically safe from this school room assault. Without a doubt this was fear uncut on all sides. Fear on the part of the protagonist for his perceived lack of ability,as well as his fear of being called on it. It was the other students fear of his reaction. And it was fear of the teachers and principle of not being able to do a great deal to handle the situation. Discipline would have no effect,neither would the PTA. Pure adrenaline rushes on the part of a troubled preteen student proved to be totally beyond reasoning.

              That represents the linkage of fear of a changing world so many desire and the challenges of helping developing young minds in special education to handle a social climate that all these years later still seems to have all odds against them. Though stated in a broader context the great American composer Duke Ellington,during his acceptance of a special lifetime achievement award from then President Nixon,spoke of "freedom from fear"-both within and without Ellington's own context an enormously profound statement. People who place value in the wrong things know what about themselves. Yet they keep doing whatever it is that troubles them. 

              People would rather move to a new location,change their job or even leave behind their friends and loved ones than to change those aspects within themselves that are the real source of their concerns. At times when they cannot place themselves in their group and changes seem to come so thick and fast,such people often become extremely suggestible. Even in cases where a sociopolitically powerful figure offers positive and long term change. They will tend to seek out those who are more like shifty social engineers who can offer instant satisfaction,instant answers and all things in the short term. Someone who prescribes an instant cure for their emotional ills. Someone to tell them what is wrong and what can be done to right it. A snake oil salesmen for the soul. 

          And as for the one presenting positive long term change? Well,especially if they look or sound unfamiliar they'll be almost completely rejected. So it all feeds on itself. The embrace of religious and political systems that encourage people to live in fear,the rejection by many of positive figures such as President Obama. We may all want that "freedom from fear" as part of our lives. Yet many of our actions contradict those desires. It often ends up more satisfying to this seemingly twisted ethic to worry about..say stepping on a crack on a day like this than delighting in a triumphant embrace of peace somewhere,anywhere in the world. So if people desire to achieve that freedom from fear,perhaps they'd be well advised to take a longer and harder look into the sources of these fears that so preoccupy their hearts and mind.




  1. I enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed reading your last one, so a lot. This quote in particular stood out to me: "Perhaps it goes back to the fears I had of seeing people during my adolescence put such strong emphasis on exploring mainly the darker aspect of their psyche: superstition and death as a lifestyle choice." Probably because I can relate to that completely, and I'm in my teen years right now and my life almost revolves around death. I'm somewhat death-obsessed, as a result of some complications in my life, and the fact that death is interesting to think about.
    Again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.
    Keep writing!

  2. Very nicely thought out..and timely.