Letting go of fear, ill will, and my trusty six-gun–reposted
Well, they didn’t pry it out of my cold, dead hands. But my only remaining firearm has just left the premises.
Having grown up and lived in the South I’ve owned shotguns, .22 rifles, and an assortment of handguns. But over the years, my collection had dwindled to one old revolver that I kept in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer, a place where it would be handy if danger arose. My ability to actually use the pistol in an emergency was doubtful, however, since my wife, Shonnie, had only agreed to keep it in the house if it was unloaded.
What, you might ask, motivated me to hand over the gun to local law enforcement authorities? I got rid of it in response to a well-timed question about my possession of it by Shonnie after we saw Michael Moore’s movie Bowling for Columbine. The question: “What are you afraid of, Bruce?”
You see, the central theme of Moore’s documentary is the high level of fear that prevails in America—a fear that’s fed by the media (If it bleeds, it leads.), by our political leaders (Osama’s going to get you if you don’t watch out!) and by our own minds (We’ve got to get them before they get us.).
In times like these it’s not difficult to get caught up in this anxiety and trepidation. And that’s where I found myself until Bowling for Columbine and Shonnie’s question hit me with the force of a two-by-four upside the head. The truth that I realized in that moment: I have no need of the pistol because my fears have no foundation. I’m probably more likely to be killed talking on a cell phone while driving than by someone breaking into my home. Another case of FEAR—False Evidence Appearing Real.
When the government’s color-coded terror alert system is raised a notch, I always have a choice: I can react by buying guns, installing a security system, supporting the expenditure of billions of additional dollars on armaments and cuddling up to my TV. Or I can realize that not even the highest ranking or most brilliant official in the CIA, FBI, or other agency can predict the future and live my life accordingly.
Near the end of Bowling for Columbine I got another proverbial whack on the head as I watched Charlton Heston shuffle off after an interview with Moore. I realized in that moment how angry I’d been at Heston, at Bush, at Cheney, at Daschle, and all the rest and how fearful I’d been about the momentum that was building toward war. But when I got this wake-up call, I understood that each of us is connected in some mysterious way and that I am then linked with this aging man as well. I may not agree with much of what Heston stands for, but I can nonetheless feel deep compassion for him as a fellow human being.
In order to live a life of joy, love, and consciousness, it is essential that I cleanse myself of ill will including the resentments I hold toward those who appear to be leading us in the wrong direction. I must free myself from the downward spiral of fear so that I may see my vision for myself and my world more clearly. I must take time to regularly connect with that inner part of myself—my heart, my soul, my intuition—that knows. I must discern right action in confronting my challenges and make choices from the multitude of possibilities that exist rather than reacting and falling into old, automatic behaviors. I must liberate myself from the hope that the man on the white horse is coming to lead us to a better future. I am the one who is responsible for the quality of my life; me and me alone.
* * *
This essay was originally published in the December 7, 2002 edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times. It was also featured on Michael Moore’s website (michaelmoore.com).