Week 5: Abandon Fear, Escape Death

The title is melodramatic perhaps. Then again, to an extent that’s how I’ve always been. At least it’s how I think.

It’s natural to assume that our lives will be dictated by large moments. We look for meaning from the spectacular and fantastic, what unsurprisingly comprises so few of the seconds in our lives. The memories that do the job for us of making us remember. We wait out our days for weddings, recitals, celebrations, promotions, performances.

But the performance is every day.

The grand show? It’s right here.

That’s the nightmare …or the dream.

It’s all happening. But are we alive? Are we remembering it?

Blame it on Hollywood. The lustre of films focusing on life’s grandiose events. Whatever the cause may be, this diluted perception often leaves me dissatisfied.

This is the solution.

This is who I am.

I scour for fulfilment in unsuspecting moments. I endow meaning in the smallest of symbols and actions. I interpret novels from sentences and trust purpose to guide me in the void of a nihilistic existence.

But this neurotic, kaleidoscopic way of looking at things is double-edged. Overthinking once brought me unimaginable suffering, near to the point of suicide. Sometimes, when I’m not careful, similar thoughts of lesser intensity sneak in.

Over the years, I’ve learned to filter out the less helpful insights, selecting instead for what I judge to be the benevolent and more useful interpretations.

You might be wondering how this relates to aerial acrobatics. To wrapping silk around my leg over and over again and, hand over hand, climbing to the top while my arms and chest burn. To hanging from trapeze from my legs and leveraging myself up, to stand, lift, and hold myself in the air when my neurosystem is screaming ‘no’.

That paradox of doing everything that feels wrong or unnatural to do something stupendously right.

And you might be wondering, too, how naïve I might be to think that immortality somehow exists at the end of courage.

This is my world. Upside down.

I look for angels where monsters dwell. I ask for strength from my weaknesses. Without these contrast we’re hollow. We all know that. So I skip the step of running from these things and instead run towards them. I try, anyways. That’s what this is all about. Practice.

When it comes to finding monsters, there is no better under-the-bed or closet-in-the-night than …

Fear.

When the instructor shows us new manoeuvres, the instinct in all of us is to recoil and wait for somebody else to try it for the first time. I see it them. I see it in myself. The trepidation. The instinct is to linger in the safety of not knowing if we’ll rise to the occasion. Of not knowing if we’re good enough. Likely because, we know, at this point, we surely aren’t.

Some part of us savours being the spectator. The bystander. Meanwhile, something more ambitious wonders what heaven and hell the performer dwells between. What it feels like to extend out from the latter and into the former.

Failure is so abhorrent. Especially with a crowd. The sensation. Ugh. It’s like life rejecting you after you’ve asked it out for a date. Body, mind, soul, failing at something means you weren’t enough, and the lack of success is your clear and resounding, “No.” Even if it’s just for a moment, even if it’s just getting tangled in silks—it’s humbling.

And we all fear it, to an extent.

I am learning to numb myself to it. Maybe even enjoy it for what it implies is coming next. All that struggling between heaven and hell. More than anything, this is what I am learning from the silks and the trapeze. I know that almost every manoeuvre I try for the first time will arrive with failure. Even the success will be too clunky, too awkward to really call a success. That’s why it’s progress. The steady ascent away from the flatline that is worse than failure ...

Inaction.

So what death am I trying to save myself from?

The death of inspiration.
The death of sincerity.
The death of intensity.
The death of passion.
The death of curiosity.

It’s not just with silks or trapeze.

This constant interaction with moments we fear is everything. This choice to make it a habit of acknowledging fear and doing what frightens us anyways. Every time I don’t, things feel … colder. Almost as if death is looking over my shoulder, checking her pocket watch, wondering why I am wasting my time in that inaction. That fear.

I’m not comfortable living as only a bystander.

I return to the silks to be upside-down. I don’t have to be afraid when I’m there because, in those moments, nothing that is important to me is dying.