Nov 7, 2011

Fear: The Ogre Who is as Big as you let Him

There was once a strong and inquisitive young man who loved to travel. In his thirst of knowledge, he moved from place to place and traveled from town to town, drinking in wisdom and recording everything that happened to him.

Eventually, he came to a beautiful village slumbering at the foot of a mountain surrounded on all sides by green hills where gentle winds blew intermittently, delighting the mind and refreshing the heart.  In this beautiful place, he was shocked to see that the inhabitants of this village were sad.   They moved sluggishly, dragging their feet.  To him they appeared no more than phantoms, without body or soul.  The sight of these phantoms terrified him.  He was determined to discover what made them so and set off to see a fabled wise man that lived alone in a hut, cut off from the village and its inhabitants.

When the young man met the wise man, he asked what secret lay behind this great paradox.  He asked why these people lived in a state of subjugation and dejection in a village where everything would seem to suggest that the people would be blessed with happiness and well-being. The sage came out of his hut and pointed to the top of the mountain.  “Look at that peak.  An enormous ogre sits up there.  From where he sits, he raves and shrieks, filling people’s hearts with fear by threatening to gobble them up if they leave their homes or do any kind of work at all. The people, terrorized by his shrieks, can live only by stealth.  Only their survival instinct keeps them going. They steal like mice in secret to gather enough to keep body and soul together.  They live day by day, waiting impatiently for the moment of their death. Their fear of this ogre has sapped their intellect and depleted their physical powers, reducing them to despair and hopelessness.”

The young man thought for a while and said, “I’m going to the top of the mountain.  I will talk to this ogre and ask what makes him threaten and frighten these people.  I will ask him why he wants to prevent them form leading their lives in peace and safety.”

“Go up to the top of the mountain? No sane person would risk his life by daring to meet the ogre.  I implore you not to do it for the sake of your life, young man!” But the young man would not be dissuaded.  He was determined to do what he believed had to be done.  And so, with slow but sure steps, he started on his way to the peak.

When the young man reached the peak, the ogre did, indeed seem large at first; however, what he found as he walked on astonished him.  The closer he got, the smaller the ogre became. By the time he arrived, he found that this great ogre who terrorized many was smaller than his littlest finger.  The young man opened his hand and held out his palm and the tiny ogre jumped onto it.

“Who are you?” the young man asked.  “I am Fear,” the ogre replied.  “Fear of what?” the young man asked.  “That depends on who you are.  How each person sees me depends on how he imagines me.  Some people fear illness, and they see me as disease.  Others see me as poverty, so they see me as poverty.  Others fear authority, so they see authority in me.  Some fear injustice, others fear wild beasts or storms, that’s how I appear to them.  He who fears water sees me as a torrent, he who fears war perceives in me an army, ammunition, and suchlike.”  “But why do they see you as bigger than you really are?” asked the young man. “To each person I appear as big as his fear.  And as long as they refuse to approach and confront me they will never know my true size.” replied the ogre. 

Exerpt from "A God Who Hates" by Wafa Sultan