Last night I attended one of the ALOUD at Central Library talks with Sebastian Junger, an adrenaline-crazed adventure seeking journalist who put himself at death’s door vis-à-vis a five month residency in America’s most exposed military outpost in the world- the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  He wrote about his experience in a recently published book, titled “WAR” (you might have seen/read his other popular work, “A Perfect Storm” which was made into a movie years ago.)  He spoke about his experience surviving on the side of a hillside with 35 men, clinging to unstable land in makeshift barracks packed so tightly that from one bunk you could touch three others and still see the remaining 31 men packed into theirs.  Their outpost was attacked daily.  Their shield, sand bags. The heat was so intense that they succumbed to walking around almost naked.  Home made sandals sculpted from missile boxes substituted for heavy, hot boots.   If one man went down, they all did.  Interdependency redefines itself in these environs.  And yet sometimes the biggest contender is not the enemy soldier.  It’s the enemy that lives inside.  Fear.

Out in Korengal Valley one is forced to come face to face with their fear.  Junger says it is vital to develop a relationship with your fear because frankly it’s not going to go away, so you better know it and work on controlling it.  Once you recognize it in yourself and your brothers, you’re one step closer to its antidote: courage.    Without it, you don’t survive.  Courage is simply part of the job description. Without it, you’re a dead man.

I like the way he articulated that fear is not something worth trying to eradicate. It’s there, and it’s a matter of how one deals with it.  Sometimes just recognizing its presence is enough to suppress its power.   He said it’s about developing a relationship with it.  How is that for empowerment?

We live with so much fear in our lives (the stable, manicured, private and non-combatant ones) that the sheer extent of its presence blinds us from even recognizing it anymore.  It’s like the black mold that lived on my old apartment walls. A silent killer, it destroyed my health without me even knowing it.  As did the mold, fear creeps into every corner of our existence.  And we let it. Unlike in the Korengal Valley where one small decision made on fear could cost a life, fear in our civilian world  fosters a passive, prolonged sort of death.  Not as immediate as that of a soldier, but the drawn-out kind. An illness spreading in scope and intensity as time wears on.

What was the last decision you made based on fear?  How would that situation have looked different if courage was the driving force?  I think it’s time we worked on that relationship he mentions. I’d like to envision a world free of fear and full of courageous, empowered human beings.


~ by maureenmoore on May 28, 2010.

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