As the old sing, so twitter the young…

                             1668 painting by Jan Steen

I’m working on a book: A Beginner’s Guide to Fear. It’s a portrait of a class of eight students confronting their fear of deep water, based on the classes I teach and the students I’ve had. Fear. We get great helpings of it sluiced through our devices, mine being a computer which opens to the New York Times website. We watch, or read about a Republican convention in which fear is the foremost, the only, motivator aside from power. It works, even for us bleeding heart liberals. We turn away awash in fear. Fear of Trump and those people, some of whom are my relatives, and yours too.

Fear. It’s a construction, a built-up thing. In the water there are ways to deconstruct it. Slow down. Feel your body. On land, I suppose, you could say the same. Sit still. Meditate. The thing that makes my teaching easier than what a shrink does is the water itself. It offers a balm of sensation, and, according to a recent Times column, submerging up to your heart increases blood flow to the brain by as much as fourteen percent. That’s why I’m so smart and so mellow.

Right. I often find myself stuck in the perennial codger mind-set: what’s the damn world coming to? Everyone walking around hands and noses glued to the stupid phones, cafes full of zombies, lanes jammed with black SUV’s. No doubt there’s a big component of fear in my dyspepsia. The good shrink might ask, are you afraid of being displaced by the young, in the same way the Trumpistas are afraid of being displaced by the Other?

Never mind. I’m going to the pool and jumping in.


3 responses to “SO SMART AND SO MELLOW

  1. When I think back to my fear of swimming in early childhood, I think the chlorine smell in pools was a significant part of my anxiety. I knew it was added to kill germs, but I felt uneasy about breathing in that gas that seemed to rise off the water. It didn’t feel safe and healthy and contributed to the feeling that swimming was a good way not to get enough oxygen to stay alive. It might have helped me to have someone talk about that directly.

  2. ……’a balm of sensation’ – I feel better just thinking it …

  3. I had a little insight about my own set of fears when I went out canvassing the neighborhood this morning. Mostly people were not home. And the few people who came to the door, were mostly friendly to my non-threatening older white woman self. But one guy was adamantly opposed to what I was “selling” (the idea of residential parking permits). He really really was angrily sure that this was a terrible idea, would never work, and was just a scheme by the City to fill its coffers. I backed off, of course, made sure to get his address so I could promise never to darken his door again. He thanked me for that without even the hint of a smile. It occured to me that what I brought up for him was fear of the world (everyone out to get me, take something from me, etc.) and that his fear was what scared me. Where is the refuge in a world where we are all afraid of each other?

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