If there are just two of us who can pursue this question to the very end, refusing to settle on any quick and convenient answers, yet determined to grapple with every nuance of the question, then I am sure something amazing will happen. It is with this feeling that we have to set out together, which isn’t about optimism or blind hope. It is more about the feeling that by starting out at the same place we have already provided a substantial part of the answer. Then the rest of it is very easy. However, if we arrive with jaded opinions and a generally tired mind, the whole thing starts as a battle and rarely moves from there.
If we are facing it now, is it fear? So this may be one of the most vital nuances. The moment we are faced with a real physical threat, the body takes over, doesn’t it? The whole survival mechanism kicks in. Fear comes in only when there is an interval between where I am now and the perceived threat. Then I have time to think about it. And, if this is so, we have also answered the other question about fear as abstraction: it can’t exist as anything else. It is only before or after a challenge that I can be afraid. At the moment of challenge, all my attention is on that. There isn’t the time to imagine all the many scenarios that thought gets lost in as fear.
If I ask you right now what you are afraid of, it will always be about something in the future, an event yet to be, and that image will have its roots in the past, as a memory of hurt.
Why does fear come in if it serves no useful purpose? Do we need an alarm system? Or can an alarm system be a greater danger than any danger it can alert us to? If we’re not sensitive enough to detect danger without being alarmed, we can’t live without fear. But if it’s possible to be more sensitive, it’s possible to live without fear.
So the underlying question is: is it possible to be more sensitive?
Not quite. We said fear comes into the interval between now and then. But there is no then, except as an imagined event. So the future is my psychological survival mechanism. It means I can carry on into an imagined tomorrow. However, I can only construct a psychological future from the fragments of psychological memory I already possess. Those fragments are the recorded memories of hurt, either as moments of loss or as moments of joy, but even those memories of joy are tinged with a sense of loss because they are back in the past and can only be recaptured as an idea. The word ‘loss’ is an interesting word because it has many variations: loss of those whom I love, loss of material possessions, loss of position, loss of respect and acceptance, loss of friendship and affection, and so on. It is a good word to describe the fundamental building blocks of fear. The oldest recorded meanings of this word are linked back to Old English and Norse, ‘los’, as ‘destruction’ and ‘the breaking up of the ranks of an army’ – and these fragments of destruction are the bedrock of our psychological being.
Therefore it is not a question of more sensitivity. We are simply looking at what we are and going each step a little deeper.
Being alert to danger…like walking after dark and being alert for potential danger…perhaps from wild animals? or walking in the woods and being alert so as not to trip on a log or step on a snake? That’s different than fear isn’t it? Crossing a busy city street we must be highly alert for turning cars and buses. Then once I’m across there’s no more danger so I can relax…at least somewhat. But psychological danger and the fear it instills is a different issue. I’m not afraid of my boss because he’s going to physically assault me. I’m not afraid of being alone on a rainy weekend with nothing to do because it’s physically dangerous. I fear my loneliness…my isolation. I fear if my spouse leaves me, I’ll be lonely and depressed. I fear losing the security of my attachments and fulfillments. If the power goes out in a storm or my wife wants me to take her shopping, and I can’t watch the big football game, I’m frustrated and upset because I’m going to be bored all evening. I fear the loss of my pleasures. It’s the kind of fear that human beings live with all the time, and it doesn’t normally threaten our physical survival, so it serves no ‘useful purpose’. Or does it, in your view?.
Loss, as you say, “is a good word to describe the fundamental building blocks of fear”, and fear is the memory of loss that “comes into the interval between now and then”.
If we don’t need to be reminded of past losses, we don’t need to live with fear. But if at times we do need to be reminded, we do need to live with fear. You say we don’t need to be reminded of what we have to lose psychologically because our identity is illusory, not real, but the reality is that the loss of respectable, acceptable identity in the eyes of others is not illusory because it constitutes a real, substantial loss. There’s danger in losing the acceptance of others.
Krishnamurti’s use of the word “fear” to refer to both psychological and physical response means we have to specify which kind of fear we’re referring to.
With fear of physical danger, we may need our alarm system because we’re not as good at detecting danger as most animals are. But with psychological fear, the fear of losing self-esteem, respectability, social status, security, etc., an alarm system might make things worse, in which case we’re better off without it.
What are they accepting? An image of me; that’s all it ever is. If I do something or say something that challenges their view of the world, my actions are compared against those views. If my actions match then I fit in; if not, I am left out. Any image of me therefore arises from their older and more established images of the world. Either way, I am totally alone, whether the group accepts me or not. The point is, am I aware of my actions? Because if I just go along with the game and keep trying to fit in, I trade being merely alone for the possibility of a terrific sense of psychological loneliness, which is to be accepted by the group yet having to maintain an image. And it is only ever a group of images; that’s all I am relating to. Standing outside the group, I have a relationship to it. When we are inside it, however, not one of us has relationship except for imagery.
The problem begins in the young child. He/she can’t survive without the acceptance of his parents and the other significant adults in his life. So gaining acceptance…even though it’s only acceptance of image/s…is a matter of survival. The young child won’t survive physically if he’s cast out of the group…the community…the tribe…the family…
Yes, but as a member of society with no illusions, it’s the illusions and images of others that determine whether you lose your job, lose their respect and trust and are rejected, perhaps driven out of the community.
If those consequences are acceptable to you, so be it. But if they can be avoided by appearing to play along when there’s no harm in doing so, it’s foolish to be heedless when there’s real danger.
No, you are missing the point. Can I live among people, in the midst of society, and function sanely and safely? I don’t mind what they do to me, but I won’t use images. Whether I use images or not, they will still behave as they behave. So it is pointless to create another image of what they might do to me if I live differently. First, I have to live differently and see what happens.
This is boasting. You may mind very much what they do to you. So much, in fact, you’ll have to flee for your life.
I have to live differently and see what happens.
Of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to be intractable or self-righteous. If you ignore or dismiss the images they form of you, you’re setting yourself up for rejection, and that’s not seeing what happens - that’s making something happen.
So it is pointless to create another image of what they might do to me
This raises the question of whether noting the possible consequences of their images is image forming or just reasonable precaution.
Why should they reject me? You are still missing the point. I said I won’t use images. I won’t protect myself with images. That’s all. Images offer no protection whatsoever. All they can do is heighten any sense of isolation in relationship to others. Try it and see what happens when you don’t trust a single image. Then none of this is hypothetical.
You’re missing my point: I’m not advocating having images. I’m saying that being heedless of the images others have of you is foolish and reckless because they act on their images, and their actions affect you.