How Can Our Moral Behavior Transcend the Panic of a Plague Upon Us?
In season three of the original series, the third episode of The Twilight Zone was called “The Shelter.” The subject is fear. Neighbors who genuinely like each other are gathered together of an evening. All is convivial and gracious. Until a Civil Defense announcement declares unidentified objects are heading to the United States. They assume it is enemy bombers.
One person has built a fallout shelter only large enough for his family of three. All the neighbors want in. But there is literally no room. The neighbors use a makeshift ram to bust down the door to the shelter. Just as they do this , Civil Defense announces the objects are benign.
The outcome, Serling tells us, is that we either practice civility, or we are doomed without any real threat at all.
Do You Choose Fear, or Faith?
A crisis of any kind helps us define one thing about ourselves most — do we live in fear more than faith? But it also brings in a bigger question: Do we succumb to panic, and so choose fear FIRST?
Is that fear what we believe in more than the presence of God?
Your answer determines not only how you live and the choices you make, but how the whole world proceeds, for your behavior ripples out every time and touches many others, who in turn bring your message to more.
You might readily say it is foolish to rely on faith alone when a crisis is causing such chaos, when the world seems to be in a state of mass anxiety. But in truth, the crisis isn’t causing the chaos — WE ARE. Just as Serling described almost 60 years ago. We are creating a kind of nightmare of perception through our fear.
We don’t need to do this, and not this way.
It would be foolish of me to say we don’t need to take measures to protect ourselves and those we love and our friends. Of course we must. But when we take those measures at the expense of others, we have given into fear.
We have chosen to see ourselves as more vital on this earth than other human beings.
What Does It Mean to “Survive”?
“Of course it’s a matter of survival,” you could say to me.
No, not exactly, is my answer. HOW we survive matters. What choices we make when we are faced with fear — how much we give into it or transcend it — this is what makes the world go round. As it happens, fear has never given us anything but more fear. It has never been creative or brought us hope. It has never resolved the chaos.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it well in WW2, when a crisis of unbelievable chaos and violence was unleashed upon the world: “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” For fear spreads and takes us into even greater darkness.
In truth, humankind has never been free of crises. Our survival could even be called a mystery, given what we have done to each other, never mind what a microbe can do.
We seem to be a species incredibly susceptible to violent behavior. Why? This is always the outcome when we value our fear most of all.
Mind you — you also do extreme violence to yourself, to your deepest self, when you choose the darkness of panic and fear:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.” 1 John 4:18
What Then Must We Do?
When we yield to panic, our passions run high. It is a scourge not only of reason but of faith. And what good does it do us to hoard supplies when others around us are wanting? In the great scroll of being, in God’s Universe, what does hoarding out of fear, disregarding the consequences of our behavior toward others, actually accomplish?
Nothing. It is a base behavior, reactive, and yes, destructive, for us, for others, and for this planet we live on. Nothing good comes of it. Nothing redemptive comes of it.
We may even believe we are justifying our own existence at any cost, but in so doing we are letting go of personal responsibility for our behavior, for our thoughts, feelings, and for the actions we take.
We are meant to be more than this. Exponentially more.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Letting Go of the Darkness of Fear
Carl Sagan famously said “we are made of star stuff.” The atoms that make up our entire body and brain and heart come from galaxies and the myriad of stars. In this image below, Earth is that tiny, barely visible dot seen from Saturn, just beyond the end of the arrow way out there in the vastness of space. Yet we are unique among all celestial bodies.
That tiny speck is filled with life. We have been sent here to be caretakers for this world we are in, this planet we are on, and all her creatures— and we do this by caring for one another no matter what happens or is happening. It is a morality — a way of life! — born of faith, and love. That is the core of it. We are meant to live in gratitude for this precious life, no matter what.
Allowing ourselves to panic shrouds this truth, briefly covers up the precious reality of each living soul and his, her, its place in the Universe.
That panic is a myth. So is the fear.
We are created by God.
From 1 John 3:18–19
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
We Have the Power to Choose Another Way
It is always, always, a matter of choice — to live in fear, or to live from the heart. When we live from the heart, more than from fear, we honor life.
And in this way, too, from the heart, as creations of God, so we honor God’s presence within us as a guiding force. Always here. Always available to us. Always loving us.