The great mind Sylvester Stallone once said “It would be great to be able to pass on to someone all of the successes, the failures, and the knowledge that one has had. To help someone avoid all the fire, pain, and anxiety would be wonderful.” As well, followed up by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
Many sociologists, communicators, religious experts and psychologists have called this era, the Age of Anxiety. One of the most important men in the 20th century, whether he was publicly recognized or not, was a man named Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan said “Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools.” What have we equipped ourselves to deal with our problems in life? How are we treating the problem of anxiety. Can life be lived in its greatest capacity with the existence of anxiety. What is anxiety exactly?
Anxiety, defined by Philosopher Paul Tillich, is “Our being becoming aware of our non-being”. Or, our existence becoming aware of our non-existence. In practical terms, it is the alive part of ourselves, that becomes aware of the dead parts of ourselves. Tillich goes on to explain that there is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear, is always attached to an object, a physical essence. Anxiety, is attached to that which cannot be attached to. It is the existential part of ourselves.
For example, in my own life. I have a fear of Bee’s. When I was a little boy, a bee stung me in my little boy private parts, and, since have feared bee’s. More profoundly, I have an anxiety of violence, more importantly, dying violently. After seeing someone get shot, being told I was going to be murdered by a trusted religious zealot, as well as other violent and chaotic experiences in my life, this anxiety still sticks with me.
I have begun to see the toil that my anxiety has taken upon my life. As the great 19th century thinker Soren Kirkegaard has come to say “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Violence and chaos, causes my body extreme stress, causing me to become extremely stressed out, and, become in physical pain because of how my body tenses up. Even more importantly, however, it has caused my anxious heart, to want control, in what appears to be an uncontrollable environment. There is little freedom in this state.
It appears to me, that the only way to find freedom is to be immersed in the anxiety. We must begin to allow ourselves to be anxious. Psychologist Dan Allender talks about how anxiety exists, to reveal something to ourselves about ourselves. It exists to reveal to us a shame that exists within ourselves. If Allender is right, then we must see how Tillich’s analysis of how our being becoming aware of our non-being becomes all the more true. We suffer from loneliness, and, therefore, must be exposed to it. The cure for loneliness, can only be found through solitude. Tillich says it better when he says “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”
We must learn to ask ourselves the deepest questions of our being if we are to seek life to the fullest. Otherwise, things like anxiety run our lives. We must learn to deal with the aching portions of our souls, so that our being can find freedom. We must learn to love and accept ourselves as we are, because, insofar as our ability to do that, are we allowed to receive and give love in return.
We must be learn to be available to share with others the dying and living portions of our lives, because, as we do that, we participate in a lateral dance of giving and receiving healing. So listen to Rocky, get Micky’s counsel and share it with others, so we can properly tool a better current and future generation for ourselves, and, our current and future children.