1944 Warsaw, Poland – The sounds of German bombs hitting down surround the bomb shelter. Is it the product of wisdom or fear to remain in the shelter? In such a case, perhaps it is wise to be fearful. At the same time, fear and love work in opposition. In the presence of love, no fear is necessary. War comes out of fear. But love has the power to cause war to cease. We spend so much of our lives attempting to avoid pain. But pain is a gift. Pain tells us when there is something wrong. It hurts when a German bomb blows off my legs because my legs are important to survival. It is a part of our nature to strive to survive. We tend to fear that which we don’t understand and, as a race, we have yet to provide any concrete evidence of what happens to our consciousness after our bodies die. Is it wise to cling to life, as many of us do? The illusion that we do not have enough resources to sustain the human race could inspire us to conclude that death may be the wisest option, means to the greater good, for many of us. But this illusion is the product of fear. Ironically, power creates fear. With nothing to lose, we may feel more inclined to take greater risks. But possessions tie us to these bodies, to these lives.
I once theorized to a loved one that fear was responsible for the anti-Muslim sentiment in our country. She told me a proposal to keep Muslims out of the United States was the product of wisdom. Perhaps staying in a bomb shelter during a European Theatre bombing may be the product of wisdom. Either choice would likely not result in the loss of life other than my own. Now refusing Syrian refugees as a result of negative stereotypes of the statistically most common religious adherence in the area is not only the product of fear; It is unwise. Wisdom may be defined as “a : accumulated philosophical or scientific learning : knowledge
b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight
c : good sense : judgment” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wisdom)
Fear may be defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear) By nature, fear is painful. When actions inspired by the fear cause pain to others, this fear may be especially painful to us. Empathy is a natural function of the human brain. Love inspires empathy, while fear may require us to shut ourselves off from it. The survival of the human race is a product of wisdom. To care for each other is wise and loving. In many cases, wisdom and love are one in the same.
In order for fear to be a wise avoidance of pain, we must first have reason to believe the pain we are avoiding is stronger than the pain caused by the fear. Second, we must know the pain we are attempting to avoid is a strong likelihood.
Perhaps instead of clinging to our idea of what is wise, we may want to act out of wisdom and love. True wisdom is adaptable. Wisdom may inspire us to empathize and see all sides of an issue. Love recognizes we should look out for each other. Fear may tell me that riding my bicycle barefoot with no shirt on may cause scrapes and bruises. It has in the past. But true wisdom may tell me it is worth the risk. Fear only has the power we give it. When we refuse to be afraid, we can rise above and love unconditionally.