Fear of (fill in the blank) can feel like the biggest, scariest monster pursuing us, sometimes through multiple lifetimes. Never relenting, we spend 90% of our energy avoiding whatever that monster is for us, attempting to run faster, blend in so it won’t see us, or bury our head in the sand so we at least lose sight of it for a time. Exhausting.
Of course, the only way to gain freedom from the beast stalking us, our greatest fear, is to stop running, stop avoiding, and face that fear head on. Easier said than done, I know. Our conscious choice is generally not to walk straight into the lion’s den. But God, what freedom can be found there.
Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, Mother Nature intervenes and throws us kicking and screaming straight into that toothy maw. I can see her chucking me in a few times over the past decade, not hindered by emotion, tired of watching me struggle. “This is going to hurt like hell” as she heaves me into the dark opening, “but you’ll thank me for it.”
And it’s true, after the injuries heal, I always have.
I grew up with an intense fear of fire. I also grew up with an intense fear of atomic warfare and a near obsession with WWII. Between the ages of fifteen and thirty, I read every book published on the war. I read A World At Arms by Gerhard Weinberg twice, all 1178 pages, and the second time I read it I took notes. The reason being, I couldn’t stand that I forgot details. I wanted to remember that fourteen countries declared war on Germany before the United States got involved, that France, so paralyzed by WWI entered an era of drift and despair which rendered them incapable of standing up to Germany, that Norway turned ferocious when Germany attacked them and shocked the entire world. Germany’s navy never quite recovered from Norway’s defense of their country. I wanted to remember every detail because I thought it was our duty, my duty, to remember every detail. Across the world over 60 million people died in that war. Approximately 3% of the world’s population in 1940. I needed to remember that. I felt compelled to be there in some way, some minuscule way, for all of those who suffered.
All of this was highly baffling to my friends and family. WWII ended 25 years before I was even born. Most people had moved on. My parents, having no idea how to handle this, declared a law in my household whereby it was illegal to mention the word “Holocaust” or “atomic” or any other word associated with any world war. My friends just scratched their heads. Teen-age mall talk doesn’t exactly compute. I was a weird egg, but I was lovable.
I believe when there is so much confusion in a system, the mind, body and spirit come together to make order out of chaos. I believe that there are certain things we, as people, just can’t know for certain. Our minds just aren’t built for it, or we haven’t evolved to process certain phenomena yet…I can’t say. But we all have our beliefs surrounding what happens when our body hits its expiration date and there seems to be sufficient evidence for me to believe in reincarnation. When I connected with the possibility that I had been involved in WWII, my entire system exhaled with relief. In fact, as a very young child, between the age of five and ten, I had a recurring dream about a blood red river flowing through an annihilated landscape, filled with dead people. My mother was so disturbed by the dream that she had absolutely nothing to say when I would report to her that I had it again. Here I was, this tiny thing, how was my brain producing such horrifying images, so detailed?
Fast forward decades when at the age of 39 I watched for the first time a movie called Grave of the Fireflies by Studio Ghibli, a film about the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan to end WWII. In the film, the scene of my long-ago dreams, the blood red river, was frame-by-frame depicted in the film. Every detail. Bottom line…I believe I was in Nagasaki when that bomb came down. A small girl, between the age of five and ten. Or at the very least, I had somehow plugged directly into the collective unconscious and downloaded the horror that way. Also a possibility. My mind is open to the possibilities but my spirit is certain; I was there in some way.
And so, imagine the irony that a month ago I moved to the birthplace of the Atomic Bomb, White Rock, New Mexico, sister city to Los Alamos where the National Lab resides, where Einstein and Oppenheimer set the stage over seventy years ago. Imagine how strange it feels to wander through the atomic museum and to see twenty-foot black and white images of a ruined Nagasaki and Hiroshima extending around an entire room, like you’re actually standing there among the post-apocalyptic ruins.
The truth is… it feels like completion to me.
Because it feels like there is no greater symbolism for me facing my fears, for me coming full circle in my Soul’s healing, than to end up right where it all started. The museum isn’t celebrating the destruction, it feels like an anti-war message to me. It’s a reminder of what this side of humankind is capable of, of what human beings can accomplish with science in all of its horror and beautiful glory, and yes, science can be both. There’s no celebrating in this museum. There is only somber remembrance. A refusal to stick a collective head in the sand.
So when I drive by the particle accelerator, past the guards at the gateway to the National Lab, drive down Oppenheimer Drive, Manhattan Avenue, the Bradbury Science Museum and all of that… it actually feels like freedom to me. It feels like being in the biggest lion’s den of my lifetime and knowing I can thrive there.
I had to be here.
There is no greater freedom, no greater elation, than sitting in that den, cross-legged and comfortable, feeling the hot breath of the lion, and feeling only love for where I’ve been in life and where I am now. On the other side of fear, lies a peace so deep it can’t be disturbed.
What is your lion…?