When I posted What is YOUR Worst Fear, I intended to follow the next week with a sequel, MY Worst Fear. But it has taken a full month of soul-searching labor to deliver. The outcome – a yin-yang re-birthing of this website.
The original sequel would have expressed the persistent fear described in Rethinking Survival:
The greatest personal obstacle I listed was pessimism, an attitude embedded deep in my upbringing, which crops up from the reservoir of inherited weaknesses from time-to-inconvenient-time. . . . the demon that surfaces when things get especially rough, taunting that all I’ve learned has been in vain, all the books I’ve written were for naught.
I feared the fate of Cassandra. I feared that I’ll fall short in warning that we urgently need to recognize an unwelcome elephant’s presence in civilization’s room – the hovering uncertainty of human survival.
Then doubts crept in. I decided to learn more about Cassandra, sung of by the bard, Homer, in The Iliad. I knew she was a priestess gifted with foresight. I knew her warnings went unheeded. Her prescience failed to prevent the destruction of her people.
But research uncovered another side to her story. According to legend, she received her gift from the Sun god Apollo in exchange for promises which she failed to keep. The curse of disbelief was attached to her prophetic abilities – so it is said – as punishment for deceiving the gods.
Obviously, I hope there’s no similarity between us on that count. Also, Cassandra died a hideous death, a fate which isn’t included in my particular fear portfolio.
So I searched my memory banks for a more accurate image of my worst fear. Immediately, one came forward.
As a teen, I spent two wonderful summers at Interlochen, the National Music Camp. One night, as was my habit, after the bugle sounded taps and the lights went out, I hid, wide awake, completely covered under my wool olive-drab army blanket and turned on a flashlight to read in the dark.
My borrowed book chronicled atrocities of the WWII holocaust. The powerfully horrifying image that remains with me was an enforced still birth. Enroute to death camps, Nazi guards responded to calls for help when a Jewish woman went to labor by chaining her legs tightly together at the ankles. Suffering oceans of agony, she died together with her unborn child.
Over the years, this is the repeating image of agony that comes to mind whenever the constellation of conspiring events seems to prevent me from bringing my writing into the world.
But again, rethinking led to doubts. I put this fear to Plato’s test, remembering his standard:
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
I decided, figuratively speaking, to turn the flashlight formerly hidden furtively under my youthful pillow for secret night-time use to submit my adult fears to the daylight of reason. Knowing that fear invites danger, I asked myself, “Am I allowing festering fears to become a self-fulfilling prophecy?”
So I named my immediate fears, one-by-one, and took responsibility for allowing them to influence my decisions, yielding a new array of options for correcting old mistakes. I can now proceed to direct future choices toward better outcomes.
For one thing, I decided to take on the paralyzing web of Catch 22s that plague a writer’s career. This is not the place to digress into war stories and bitter complaints. Suffice it to say that trusting authors are all-too-easy prey for members of the established publishing profession who specialize in eating them for their lunch.
But then, the alternative – to do everything alone, wear the many diverse hats required to bring a finished product to the general public – has just as many pitfalls. Marketing especially has been an issue. I took this position in The Positive Paradigm Handbook:
To my way of thinking, a person with something of extraordinary value to offer should be eagerly sought out and welcomed.
This is the book I dearly wanted for myself, the one that wasn’t on the shelves no matter where I looked. I’d have given everything I had for the knowledge in the Handbook. It’s the sum of what I’ve searched a lifetime to find. I’ve sacrificed a great deal to write and make the information usefully available. I’m offering it whole, on a silver platter, to those with an ear to hear.
So courting readers seems inappropriate and undignified, even embarrassing. I’ve accepted the necessity of marketing as a humbling, character-building opportunity. I can gladly swallow personal pride for the sake of human survival. The trade-off is more than worth it.
In some respects, however, I stand my ground. When marketing standards go against the grain of the Positive Paradigm, I draw the line. One fashionable marketing concept is called branding. “The author is the brand.”
Here I disagree wholeheartedly. It’s not about me. I’m just an imperfect messenger, not the message. I am but a transient visitor, briefly here, soon enough gone. The universal structure of the Positive Paradigm is the brand and its center hub is forever.
In this, yet another Greek myth is relevant. Again, from Rethinking Survival:
The Titans were gods sired by Kronos (Father Time). Fearfully jealous, as each was born, Kronos stole the male infants from his wife Gia (Mother Earth), swallowing his sons whole. This story is a metaphor for the Law of Karma. Our deeds may seem to be swallowed up by time, but in fact they never die.
In the cyclical course of natural events, they come back, as did the Titans, returning to conquer and replace the old gods.
Suffice it to say this self-assessment has resulted in a total rethinking of my attitudes and approach. These will be mirrored in the redesign of this website, to take place gently and gradually over the summer months. I’ll save the transformations of specific fears into action plans for a future post, “Under Construction.”
Nothing of substance – the archetypal ideas presented here – will change, but presentation will improve dramatically.
In sum, facing my worst fears for the purpose of writing this post has had a marvelously healing effect. Just so, I remember the Bene-Gesserit fear mantra from Frank Herbert’s Dune:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
I am taking the liberty of posting a comment from François Zuccheri, (who told me that the old website “sucked”), the better to answer his challenges. Thank you, François !
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“One fashionable marketing concept is called branding. “The author is the brand.”
Here I disagree wholeheartedly. It’s not about me. I’m just an imperfect messenger, not the message. I am but a transient visitor, briefly here, soon enough gone”
Patricia, I think you are wrong here, you do not give yourself enough credit. The messenger is valuable in conveying the message in a way that is not antagonistic or condescending to the crowd. Humility is a virtue that too often lays in the way of persistence. You can bring us the most illuminated message, yet cannot convey the light of day if you don’t invest your true soul, the real you, good or bad, into communicating it raw. The true artistry of the message resides within the messenger.
I love how you opened up. I must ask that you re-visit writer beat with this piece and buoy the ship of relevance again for us. Or I will have to mentally chain you to your chair and will post it myself 🙂