"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

The Fear

The other day after my last day of work I made the executive decision to get pretty high and take a hot shower, do some yoga, pushups, handstands, and generally stretch out my mind and body. It's kind of a ritual thing for me, similar to heavy cardiovascular exercise; helps to keep the engine running clean.

In the midst of this I encountered a hard knot of fear, which is unusual for me. I don't tend to be afraid of things -- paranoia's not my style -- but for a bit there I was grappling with some kind of deep and undeniable terror. It was a moment of weakness and confusion, debilitating even, and as I tried to relax my body and breathe through it, I also of course tried to figure out what was causing this mind-killing tension.

I'm afraid of dissapointing people, that I won't be able to live up to the expectations I create around myself. I'm afraid that I'll end up a faker, a poseur, a con. I'm afraid I won't be able to live through to my highest ideals, that lazyness and greed will drag me down. I'm afraid of wasting my life in some fruitless pseudo-bohemian masturbatory snit, and at the same time I'm afraid of "settling down" and "growing up" in conventional terms.

I believe I'm reaching a point in my life where I have to start making choices, and I worry about making the wrong ones, about writing metaphysical checks that my butt can't cash. I'm afraid that I won't be able to do it; I'm afraid of what might happen if I do.

This calls to mind that Nelson Mandella quote about how what we fear most is not that we are powerless, but that we are powerful. I think it's a little bit too glib to make much of a life philosophy, but there's a pretty sharp kernel of truth in there.

A more precise formulation for me is that I fear the responsibility that comes with the power of my agency. I do sort of believe that I can do anything, which as a younger man was quite a liberating and energizing idea to have, and one that I cherish and seek to spread. Yet as the idea becomes more and more realized -- "why yes, I can accomplish quite a lot if I put my mind to it" -- it grows more complex.

I think this is part of why people have conventional careers. Having a trail before you that's clearly marked and endorsed by your tribe eases these concerns. I don't have any such path; I'm am sort of out in the wilderness, feeling that my ability to find a way through the thick of life on some level matters, not just to me and my soul-survival, but to something greater as well.

This could well be hubris and nothing else. I don't get paranoid, but that doesn't mean I don't suffer from other problems of egocentricity. Delusions of grandeur, perhaps. My general sense though is that it's not worth second-guessing these kinds of feelings unless they're demonstraby proving themselves to be destructive, and so far my self-importance hasn't been more than annoying.

Anyway, it's not like I have a choice. I'm not gonna put on a tie and live in a cube or anything, so it's the wilderness for me, friends. Nothing to do but face this fear head on and plunge forward into the darkness.