Fear can be a debilitating thing. It can tie you up in knots, and make you afraid of whatever is coming next. And it’s no way to live.
I had an example of this after watching “Stand By Me” on DVD (and yes, that is an annoying rhyme. Sorry about that). I hadn’t seen the movie in 25 years, and maybe even more than that, but I sat down with my daughters and their cousin to watch it last night. They got to expand their vocabulary in a few new ways, but beyond that they enjoyed the movie quite a lot.
There were four young kids, maybe about 12 or so, who set off to find the body of another kid who was hit by a train. There’s a memorable scene at the end of the movie where Ace, played by Kiefer Sutherland, and his boys show up to claim the dead kid’s body, and the attention it will bring them, for themselves. But the storyteller, Gordie, and his friend Chris stand up to Ace, with the help of a gun and a willingness to use it. Gordie and Chris have to stare down Ace without the benefit of their friends, Teddy (the kid with the glasses whose father “stormed the beach at Normandy”) and Vern (the pudgy kid who was afraid of everything and reminded me of a miniature Curly Howard). But they acted without fear, and in the end Ace gave up.
When the movie was over, I took my dog and another dog out for a walk. At the end of the driveway, which was fairly well lit by lights from the cabin we’re staying in, there was a long stretch of darkness. There are no streetlights here, and getting to the road would have involved walking through pitch blackness for about 100 yards. Then, once I got to something resembling a road, I could go one way up a hill in the darkness, or another way down the hill in the darkness. Either way, there was darkness ahead of me.
I could have played it safe and stayed on the lighted driveway. But this would be the result of my fear of what might have been in the dark. But I pressed on into the darkness, first to the street and then up the hill for about 50 yards or so. I couldn’t see a thing, but I pressed on anyway.
Knowing that the black bear who was roaming Cape Cod a few weeks ago had already been captured and relocated to someplace else may have allowed me to do this, but I don’t think that was the case. There aren’t any predators beyond foxes that I know of in these parts, and the approach of something dangerous would have probably set the dogs off. So I wasn’t really vulnerable, in any sense of the word.
But had I let the fear win out, I wouldn’t have made it to the top, where I saw a most beautiful moon shining through the clouds. I admired the view, knowing that a moon like that wouldn’t be the same once I got back home, a few days from now.
I took the title for this post from a message to Congress that Abraham Lincoln delivered after the Civil War had began. Lincoln was not afraid, even though there real threats to the fabric of the country. The two kids in the movie were not afraid, even though a teenager with a switchblade was threatening them. And I was not afraid, in a remote, dark area with two dogs who needed to “do their thing” before being locked up in the cabin for the night.
My point is that fear can’t be allowed to win out. Whatever happens is going to happen, unless fear manages to get in the way first. I was glad that this didn’t happen to me last night. And if a glimpse at the moon and a movie about kids is what it takes to remind me of this, I could certainly do a lot worse than that.