By Philip Ghee
Sure, it was a totally obnoxious bracelet, one of those surf wear brand labels that flaunted its logo as if it were Coat of Arms. “No Fear” was the name of the company. The apparel line had undoubtedly been targeted to attract the egos of skate boarders, street-smart surfer boys and generation x-ers who break both the laws of physics and social decorum on a daily basis.
Not belonging to either of the two aforementioned groups, I still found myself drawn to the gaudy copper bracelet. The store was one of those shops consecrated for the terminally young and hip. My roommate, who was much trendier than I was picking out a pair of no less trendier jeans. I was still admiring the gaudy bracelet and feeling quite conservative and out of place. Heck! I wanted to be hip too! I reached for the bracelet. But being the symbolic person that I am, I asked my self, was I ready to make such a bold statement unto the world? I withdrew. I surveyed the store. What do these fourteen year oldies know about “Fear” I contemplated.
I don’t know when it actually happened but somewhere along the years, I had lost my fear of individuals. No, this is not to say that I am no longer cautious or I no longer jump a few feet in the air when someone goes “boo!” from behind. What I mean by losing my fear is that I no longer anticipate a person will have power over me to which I must submit.
It was this liberation of fear that allowed me to travel alone and to go into any neighborhood, area, or country without my mind concocting fantasies of what dreadful and terrible things might befall me at the hands of another. I simply perceived another, as myself, no greater, no less, and to be dealt with as situation dictates.
Once again I reached for the bracelet, this time I proceeded to the cash register. Once outside I clipped the bracelet to my forearm. The copper brazen words “No Fear” reflected in the sunlight. I inhaled deeply and feeling full of vigor I was prepared to meet the world on any terms it chose to present.
But in due time, my travels and experiences had begun to take me into other realms, where fear was still very much a factor. And as fate would have it, a drama, not entirely of the makings of this world, was being prepared to test my resolve of this fear issue, of which I would be cast in the starring role.
Years before the purchase of the bracelet I had faced and survived one mishap over another. I had encounter violent people who did not take kindly to my presence. I had ventured through rough ordeals and withstood the fury of Mother Nature. I had pushed my body to all levels of physical extremes and I dare say I had begun to feel very cocky. Worst than that I had begun to view myself as regal amongst common beings. I was truly the incarnate hero archetype, which Joseph Campbell had written of in his ‘Hero with a thousand Faces.’
In preparation for my coronation I had begun to read many tales dealing with myths, legends and religions. One of my favorite reading places was the Novel Cafe, a bohemian haunt in Santa Monica. The cafe had recently expanded to encompass an adjoining shop. Around midway of the newly renovated space a chair of exquisite craftsmanship had been placed. The chair, rich mahogany, dark wood, was a high backed antique with spiraling pinnacles arising from either side of the back. The hand carved legs transformed themselves into the claws of some great mythic beast upon which the chair rested. The seat of the chair was plush and mounted with a generous layer of burgundy velvet. This chair was much more than a chair it was most assuredly a throne. Beside the chair stood a decorative column. On top of the small table surface crowning the column was a rendition of a sculptured African head. No matter what time of night or day I arrived in the cafe, which was usually fairly occupied, this chair would be available. Naturally, my then elevated ego began to think of the chair as my personal throne. I would sometimes just like to sit, crossed legged in the chair, reading nothing, surveying my domain. My hand, firmly resting upon the sculptured African head, I felt like a monarch clutching his scepter. At those times I truly felt like King of the World.
It was on one of these occasions when a most disturbing event occurred. I had just finished reading a few passages from a book outlining the symbolic nature of the god, Shiva. Shiva is the dancing Hindu deity, which undoubtedly most of you have seen even if you have not been able to identify its origins. It is the subject of many figurines, statutes and trinkets. The deity is many armed and executing a dance upon what seems to be a baby. This aspect alone generates fear in mind of many a Westerner and we simply perceive the figure as demonic or savage. I too had fallen into that category. Upon reading though, I found the figure to be a deity which inspires enlightenment, and the baby upon which the deity dances is actually symbolism for the dwarf of ignorance. The deity holds up one of the hands of its many arms in a threatening gestures which can easily, but mistakenly or interpreted as a gesture say halt or do not enter. What that gesture is truly saying is “Fear Not.” Shiva is assuring the devotee that nothing is to be feared in the transition from one realm such as life into another such a death.
After taking in this information, I found myself relaxing and just enjoying the view of the activities going about in my kingdom. Most of the denizens of my cafe kingdom ranged from college aged to the thirty something artsy fartsy crowd. Here in there a relic of old hippiedom was thrown in to provide a spark of originality to the place. As I watch the goings on an elderly man entered the premises. This rickety old man caused the usually curled hair on the nape of my neck to stand straight up. This man had the complexion of molded Swiss cheese. His hair was full and untamed. It was wildly streaked, the color, mostly putrid gray. His eyebrows were as long, bushy and as untamed as his hair. They seemed to venture across his forehead then rise completely up to his receding hairline. He was tall, at least 6’1,” but stooped over. For support he rested his asymmetrical body over a hand carved, greatly adorned, walking stick. His clothes were forty years out of date. They were ill fitting and appeared to contain all the mold and mustiness of a coat found years later on the basement floor of a flooded second hand store. Surprisingly this, out of place, fossil of a man walked over to a table of youths and spoke intimately into the ear of one of the young men.
The young man he had spoken to was this guy who I had been seeing around for the past couple of days. He had irritated me because I had gotten the uncomfortable feeling that he had been paying too much attention to me. The young returned comment to the old man and they both quickly but most definitely looked directly at me. A chill went up and down my spine which I could not control. Our eyes, the old man’s and mine, met for less than a fraction of a second but it was enough to cause fear in me such as I have thought possible from just a glance. At that moment I wanted to be anyplace but sitting here on my throne. In deed I would have abdicated the throne for a safe stoop in the stables. This man appeared so evil in appearance that I have since coined the phrase Hollywood evil. I sincerely doubt if even absolute evil would have looked so sinister.
The rain had started to come down hard and night had fallen. The old man wandered off somewhere into the interior of the cafe. I felt safe for the time. As soon as the rain abated I planned to leave the establishment. I tried to occupy my mind with other details.
The rain eventually subsided and I begun to make my exit. I don’t know how to quite explain what happened next but as I headed for the door in my usually fast paced steps the rickety old man suddenly appeared. Emerging from the shadows, he began to follow me across the room maintaining my same quick pace. By the time I made it to the door to exit the old man was right behind me. He was so close that I could feel his worn musty clothes brush against my own. As I proceeded to walk down the street he moved in even closer, as if that was possible. I lapsed into a state of shock, my conscious mind shut down. It was unable to offer me any direction or resolution.
In times of shock or extreme excitement the conscious mind often shuts down. The unconscious or the subconscious has been known to take over and commandeer a situation. Fortunately I had just fed my subconscious a diet of Eastern Metaphysical Philosophy. I was only a view to what happened next. The subconscious signaled for my body to maintain its current walking pace, no greater, no lesser. My eyes were moved to focus partially on a distant street sign and partially on the copper embossed bracelet with the words “No Fear.” A trance like calmness flowed over my mind. My body, trance like, was held firmly in a forward position. I was restrained from turning around to face what undoubtedly would have been horror to my eyes. I was aware that the menacing figure was still right behind me but made no efforts to escape. When I reached the intersection to cross the street, I heard, as well as felt, the figure move off in another direction.
As I crossed the street the trance like condition began to leave me. By the time I had made it to the other side of the street I was ecstatic. All the misconceptions and false assumptions of my conscious mind had returned. I was so thrilled at what had just happened. My ego grew more inflated than ever. I felt as if (by my own power) I had just fended off a demon if not the Devil himself. The bus stop was only a few feet away. People had already started to board. I ran to catch the tail end of the line. Midway between my stepping out of the street and onto the bus, a deafening thunderclap, accompanied by a blazing lightning strike sounded and flashed by what must have been just a few feet above my head. I still recalled the look of astonishment on the faces of the little Mexican ladies as I paid my fare and walked casually past them, traces of smoke, steam or both, still arising from my clothing. I took a seat. Inside my body I could feel every bone attempting to make a hasty departure from the skin which housed it.
Now I am not much of a church-goer and can honestly say that I was raised with no real religious urgings. On occasion, I have made it to attend a church here and there, usually at the invite of a friend. On one such outing a came across a most interesting biblical account.
In this account Jesus had sent out his disciples to educate the populace. They had a run in or two with some underworld types. It went down and the disciples prevailed. They returned to the Master feeling very jubilant and cocky over what they believed they had accomplished.
“Master” they proclaimed. “Lord even the demons are subject to us in your name”. Jesus countered by saying “I beheld Satan fall as lightning from the sky. I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the powers of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in the lamb’s book of life.” The account of this story can be found in Luke, chapter 10.
I had the opportunity to do some research and discovered that when used in the biblical sense that one of the meanings of the word “beheld ” is to stop an action, as to catch or to hold in one’s hand. Fear not but it would be sure nice to have a back-up.