Last night I attended the Kronos Festival 2019, and it got me thinking about fear.  

Kronos, if you don’t know them, are a string quartet that for over 40 years have been breaking musical barriers and extending what is thought of as string quartet music. Last night, in addition to premiering works by a Polish composer, Aleksander Koṡciȯw and works by a Mali singer Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté (who wasn’t able to attend as her visa was “delayed”), they did a tribute to Pete Seeger for his 100 birthday.

The final song of the evening was “We Shall Overcome,” a traditional folk song adapted by Pete Seeger and used as the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Last year they closed the 2018 festival with the same song.

 

My memory from last year is of enthusiastic audience participation, both in singing “We Shall Overcome” and in standing while they sang. This year participation appeared much more low key. One of the verses of “We Shall Overcome” is:

We are not afraid,

We are not afraid,

We are not afraid, TODAY.

 

I left the concert wondering if people are more afraid today than they were a year ago. On the national scene, we’ve had another year of divisive politics, another year of pointing fingers at people of color and non-Christians.  So far in 2019, there have been 178 mass shootings in the United States. Not all of them resulted in deaths; all resulted in injury. The number of shootings have gone up almost 100 per year since 2016. Yet, it’s only the “big” mass shootings like the recent one in Virginia Beach, VA that get mass media coverage.

Brené Brown defines terrorism as time-released fear. She says that the ultimate goal is to make fear a way of life so that people begin to turn on one another. Once this happens, it’s much easier for politicians and leaders to manipulate people to their own ends.

I have no way of knowing whether what I experienced last night is a fearful audience. Perhaps we’re becoming numb to the constant violence, name calling, and put downs that are around us daily.

 

What I do know is that if we give in to fear or allow our feelings to be numbed, we allow ourselves to be victimized. We become victims of news reports. We become victims of politicians. We become victims of our neighbors, friends and family.  

I know for sure that the only antidote to fear is to consciously choose faith.  To consciously choose to acknowledge when fear creeps in. To consciously feel it and let it go. To remember that FEAR is false evidence appearing real.  To take the time to figure out what is false about the divisiveness and blaming. To stop doing it ourselves.

This week, my friend Sally reminded me of a wonderful exercise for turning fear into faith. It’s called The Releasing Prayer. It’s a simple, three sentence prayer that includes arm movements.

  1. While extending your left arm to the side, say “I release my belief in ________. (The belief in lack, conflict, poverty, judgment, dependency, chaos, etc.)
  2. While extending your right arm, say “I release my need to _________.(control, hide, anger, attachment, flee, appease,whine, depression, confusion, lose, withdraw,rebel, confront, etc.)
  3. Then extend both arms upwards, saying “I am grateful God (Life, Spirit, Goddess – whatever name works for you) is the ________I am! (abundance, beauty, peace, joy, love, order, etc)

I don’t use this practice to stick my head in the sand about what is going on in the United States and in the world. I don’t deny that it is going on. What I do deny is that it is the only thing going on. What I do know both from reading history and from my philosophical beliefs is that “this, too, shall pass.” Whether you’re someone who thinks that what is going on is long overdue or whether you believe that this is a dark time for the United States, this, too, shall pass.  

 

Another Pete Seeger song we sang last night is Turn,Turn,Turn.  So I leave you with the lyrics to this song written in the 1950’s.  It is one we would do well to sing today.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

 

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

 

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

 

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

 

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

 

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

 

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

 

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late