This space is Tanushree’s, but occasionally I chime in. Advent is in the News tab above and chronicled below at the bottom of this blog along with this and this blog where we curate fundraising and PR news and best practices. Thanks for being here.
Fear in the Face of Advent
We need not pretend fear does not exist. For anyone with a conscience, Advent is not only glad tidings. What is drawing near wants to lay claim to us. Love is a tangible reality.
In the evening of life you shall be judged on love. - John of the Cross
If we begin in our work out of love and devotion, what place can fear have? Fear reminds us that we are fallible and vulnerable, that the success of our work depends on elements beyond our control, that our egos are pushy to the end. Things fall apart, but fear need not control or define us. Fear can serve as a healthy reminder. Fear keeps us human.
Amid the gloaming of post-WWI, Yates wrote the bleak, prophetic (of WWII) poem, Second Coming, Bethlehem revisited by a slouching rough beast.
Amid the reality of WWII, Philip van Doren Stern wrote the bright shining short story The Greatest Gift, which became the basis for the beloved movie It’s a Wonderful Life. This story begins with the thought of suicide, but ends with joy triumphant and shared.
There can be two responses to fear. One choice can make us unbelieving, slavish, inhuman, and manageable by the fascists with “passionate intensity” that led the world into WWII. The other response can manage fear, reject its rule, reduce its threats to faint appearances that fade still further in the radiance of faith and love.
It is often enough remarked that “fear not” is mentioned 365 times in the Bible, one trumpet call for each day. Despite everything, even if at times the falcon cannot hear the falconer, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold – we are loved and we are free.
George Bailey’s joyful rebuke to Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life is one answer to fear and also an eloquent rebuke to those who complain there are too many small incompetent charities:
Just a minute… just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was… why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!
Here’s another answer to fear as described by William Butler Yates in his Second Coming:
TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?