Friday, April 15, 2022

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Once a month, I have the privilege of being part of a Rush-themed webcast. Each member of the panel takes a song from this month's Rush album and analyzes it. This time around, we did "Signals," from 1982, and the song I talked about was "The Weapon." 

It begins with a famous quote, from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inaugural address, delivered in 1933, when America was in the depths of the Great Depression. The president came to be known for his "Fireside Chats," radio talks about the issues of the day, during which he encouraged and inspired the audience, and made them feel as if he was talking directly to them.  And he understood that in difficult times, it's easy to give in to fear.

Neil Peart understood that too, which is why he quoted from Roosevelt. On numerous occasions, Neil wrote about how easily our fears could be weaponized -- used against us to paralyze us into inaction or to make us hate "the other." In a world where people are so often seeking simple answers to complex problems, it's easy for unscrupulous leaders to claim the problem is "those people" or "that country." In the lyrics to "The Weapon," Neil speaks of how "the things that we fear are a weapon to be held against us."      

It's Passover as I write this. Part of the observance of the holiday is to tell the story of the Exodus, of the miracle by which the Jews were set free from slavery in Egypt. In Exodus, chapter 18, we are instructed to tell the Passover story in a particular, and very personal, way: "And you shall tell your child on that day as follows: 'It is because of what the Lord did for me, when he took me out of Egypt.' ”

In other words, remember that even though this event happened several thousand years ago, it is just as real today.  Agreed, most of us are not living in bondage, and I am not trying to trivialize the story, especially in a world where slavery has not been entirely eradicated.  But on some levels, if you think about it, many of us endure a certain kind of emotional slavery. We keep making the same mistakes, we keep fearing the unknown, we keep fearing those who are different... and we're convinced that nothing will ever change.

In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is "Mitzrayim," but I am told that word also connotes "the narrow place." Each of us is stuck in our own narrow place, and often, we can see no way to break free.   Passover is about the Exodus, about leaving Mitzrayim, but it's also about leaving the place that is keeping you confined. Neil was right when he said the things we fear can be a weapon to be held against us. But the good news is it doesn't have to be that way.

And if I have a Passover message, it would be that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. I know about fear: I've grappled with it many times in my life. But if there's one thing I've learned it's that kindness and compassion-- and love-- are more powerful than fear. Sooner or later, love wins-- if we turn away from our fear and embrace new possibilities. So, whether you are religious or not, make time for those new possibilities. And don't allow fear to be weaponized against you, not now, not ever.

4 comments:

  1. Ultimately, we can choose to live in fear and despair or with hope and courage. It is hard to fight one's fears at times. However, doing so opens up many possibilities for growth and change. Chag Sameach Pesach!!!!

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  2. Cheers Donna, hope you are doing well.

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  3. COVID response has brought this song to mind the past several months. Some players on both the Left and Right (but mostly one of them I won't name) have weaponized fear to gain more power and control. "Like a steely blade in a silken sheath...". It echoes the spirit of Witch Hunt: "Those who know what's best for us must rise and save us from ourselves."

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  4. Again you are so right. And very in-depth in your discussions and topics you look deep into the subject at hand. Good show and thank you for sharing this with us all. God love you and God bless.

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