Fear and Love

by Ross Bishop

Abraham Lincoln was one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted men ever to occupy the White House. There is a story that when Lincoln was an attorney in Illinois, he was riding in a stagecoach, discussing his philosophy of self-interest with a fellow passenger. Lincoln professed that there was no act that was not prompted by at least some degree of self-interest. 

At that very moment, they passed a squealing pig that had become mired in the mud. Lincoln had the coach stopped and waded out into the mud to free the pig. Upon Lincoln’s muddy return, his seatmate exclaimed, “Now look here, you cannot say that was a selfish act!” 

“Extremely selfish,” Lincoln replied. “If I had left that little fellow in the mud, the memory of his squealing would have made me uncomfortable all day.” 

We can view Lincoln’s compassion, Mother Theresa’s caring or Gandhi’s nonviolence and be justifiably awed at their dedicated service to others. But what we often miss in our assessment is that these people had learned to live from Universal Truth because they had come to realize the blessings that living according to those precepts gave them. 

Although Lincoln was certainly acting from compassion for the pig when he rescued it; he was primarily motivated by his inner truth. His life experience had shown him that being compassionate made his life better, and that life became difficult when he was not. He had learned the price he paid for not dealing with the disharmonies that life sometimes brought his way. This is particularly fascinating considering that this is the man who was destined to be the head of the nation at a time when the country was about to literally tear itself apart.

Fear and love are both emotions, but if you notice when you experience fear the emotion can be strong, but it runs shallow. Conversely, love and compassion can also be strong, but they run deep. They can move us to the depths of our souls. I think John Lennon said it best when he wrote:

 There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
                                                                                          John Lennon

When people become self-centered because of their ego-based fear, their natural compassion shuts down. They “do not hear” the squeal of the pig because they are uncomfortable venturing outside their self-created security zone. But the problem is, if we ignore the squeal of the pig today, we will be confronted by an angry, full grown hog, stuck in the same mud tomorrow.

There are many people who go through life railing against the injustices of the world (of which there are many, to be sure); but if we would all do just one simple thing, i.e., hear the squeal of the pig; our world would be transformed. 

I say “simple thing,” but of course it is not, otherwise we would all already be doing it. The concepts behind all spiritual teachings are incredibly simple, but doing them can be quite another matter. Opening to “the squeal of the pig” illustrates the essence of that dichotomy.

Moving to the God Space means relinquishing the ego. And that means giving up a good deal of what we believe to be true, especially about ourselves. Surrendering to the God Space threatens the foundations we have built our lives on, even though these foundations are patently false. The ego gives us comfort. It keeps us “safe,” whereas the God Space seems flimsy, ephemeral and insubstantial.

But there is another reason we are afraid to surrender to the God Space. Our insecurities lead us to believe that we were kicked out of heaven because we were unworthy, and we are afraid to test those waters again, lest they turn out to be true. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. But it is a measure of the work that remains for each of us us to do.

Our insecurities also serve as sort of a safety mechanism. They keep us from moving into the God Space until we are really ready. When we are really ready to surrender, we will set them aside like a healed person does who no longer needs his crutches.

You do not yet appreciate the wonder that you are. And life/God will continue to bring you “the squeal of the pig,’ until you get it.

Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
Love is knowing I am everything,
And between the two, my life moves.
                                                                     Nisargadatta Maharaj

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