Our conventional way of thinking about the world remains profoundly dualistic. The physical and the rational in a supposedly eternal and inexorable battle against the unseen and the spiritual. In fact, the barriers between these two dimensions -- built by the narrow rationalism of the Enlightenment -- are now being dismantled by modern science and a growing chorus of personal experiences. What we're seeing -- if we are willing to look -- is that we are not alone in an indifferent universe. As Goethe put it, "This life, gentlemen, is much too short for our souls." If this life were sufficient for our souls, we would not go through it consumed with fear.
Reintegrating the spiritual and the everyday is the key to fearlessness. But ending this division is not easy when we've stopped even acknowledging that we live caught between these two worlds. When we're consumed with climbing the career ladder or just making a living, the spiritual seems unreal and far away. So we keep it conveniently penciled in one day a week, we seek it out only in moments of crisis, or we deny it altogether while trying to convince ourselves that we can overcome all fears and obstacles on our own.
Which is not to say we're not religious. Seventy percent of Americans belong to a religious organization and 40 percent of adults attend services once a week. "The downside to all this," writes Jeffrey Kluger in his 2004 Time article "Is God in Our Genes?" "is that often religious groups gather not into congregations but into camps -- and sometimes they're armed camps. . . .Why then do we so often let the sweetness of religion curdle into combat? The simple answer might be that just because we're given a gift, we don't necessarily always use it wisely."
Here's the bottom line: If you believe in a God who only judges and punishes, or if you believe that there is nothing but an accidental, indifferent universe, it's going to be incredibly hard to move from fear to fearlessness because, after all, the essential characteristic of fearlessness is trust. It's the trust that there is meaning in our lives, even when our limited minds are unable to see it, the trust that's captured in one of my favorite verses in the Bible: "Not a sparrow falls but that God is behind it."
The alternative is a pessimism and an impatience that despair of life and seek hope either in the end of the world or in worldly panaceas.
This excerpt was originally published in On Becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington.
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