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Has fear replaced purpose?

Can fear replace purpose? Is it possible that in place of purpose, many are living in a perpetual state of fear, going about their daily tasks with the driving force behind all action being fear? Do they smile out of fear and love out of fear?

Am I being driven by fear? Is fear driving me to write this right now? Am I afraid that if I don't write regularly I will lose whatever gains I've made, that my skill will begin to deteriorate and that my readers will begin to lose interest? Am I afraid if I don't start writing right now that I will lose these thoughts I want to share?

What about all these people in their cars, driving here and there. Are they going places because they're afraid of something? Are they afraid of being scolded at work, or of being fired, or of not having enough money, or missing the due date on their bills, or running out of gas, or not having a refrigerator full of food in case the grocery stores are overrun and they're trapped in a hurricane with no means of survival?

Are they afraid of not getting to their next appointment on time, or running out of fuel for their generator in case they lose electricity and can't watch TV to see what else they should be afraid of?

Do they put on jackets because they're afraid to get wet, adorn unique layers of clothing because they're afraid to look like everybody else, lock their cars and lock their houses because they're afraid of being taken advantage of? Do they conform in life because they're afraid to stand out, to break the patterns, and to be different?

For most of my life I've marveled at the flow of automobile traffic, a seemingly endless stream of people going somewhere, headed toward a destination whose description was only limited by my imagination. But where were all these people really going? What was it that instigated them to take action? What pushed them to get in their car, choose a destination, and then do something about getting there?

What was their purpose?

I've tried to imagine all the different scenarios, to find a common thing that seemed to describe all the movement in a modern society. I looked at love as the primary motivator, but tossed that out when I saw hate, jealousy, anger, and selfishness far more prevalent than kindness, compassion, honesty, and generosity. I looked at survival, but I tossed that out too when I realized how overly abundant people were already living.

In fact, I looked at as many positive reasons as I could find, but nothing added up.

If our motivation and inspiration was something positive — if it was something that made us feel good — then why were we doing everything with such reluctance? Why were we so reactionary, so easy to anger, and so quick to blame?

I remember thinking a few years ago, while sitting in traffic on the way home from a 10-hour day at the office, if my motivations for living were positive, why was I doing things on a day-to-day basis that made me feel negative? Why was I wishing I was somewhere else? Why were my choices reflecting a fear of the future? Why was I acting and reacting to fears instead of doing things that moved me towards happiness and freedom?

If societies were motivated by positive goals and people were motivated by positive purposes, then why was everybody under so much stress? Why were societies and people so slow to change? Why were those in power more interested in correcting accusations made towards themselves than debating real issues that affected the people they've chosen to serve?

If you throw fear into the mix, suddenly everything makes sense.

We are so afraid. We're terrified of breaking rules, suspicious of change, and paranoid of the unexpected. We seek direction in authority and give our power to the status quo, no matter how dangerous and untrustworthy that status quo may be.

And it's killing us. It's killing us because it's holding us back. It's killing us because it's preventing us from growing and embracing our full potential. It's killing us because we're being suffocated by fear and choked off from the from the flow of life.

Fear has a purpose, but its purpose has no place in our motivation for living.

Edit: Moments after finalizing this journal entry, I came across a project called Humans of New York and I began to wonder if maybe we ultimately find whatever it is we're truly looking for, whether that be love or fear. But then I realized what each of the photos and stories in that project captured: presence. If we live in the moment, we cannot live in fear.

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  1. Ah, so true. Perhaps this is why I still hold resentment, anger, and prejudice toward others. I am still motivated by fear rather than love…

    • It’s easy to be motivated by fear because fear is a natural primal instinct. The challenge is to recognize that we’re capable of so much more than simple primal instincts. 🙂