Finding Life amid Death: We Must Be Leaders to Strive toward Joy, Conquer Fear in a Time of Trauma. (Essay)

By Estes, Clarissa Pinkola | National Catholic Reporter, March 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Finding Life amid Death: We Must Be Leaders to Strive toward Joy, Conquer Fear in a Time of Trauma. (Essay)


Estes, Clarissa Pinkola, National Catholic Reporter


"We are not afraid. Fear only catalyzes decimation from within. Those of us who as babies lived through the flashes of the first atomic blasts on earth; we who as children lived through the constant threats of instant atomic annihilation broadcast daily over the radio, we who as teenagers lived through the Cuban missile crisis, through the leaching of nuclear materials into our land, through the planting of the Minuteman I, II, and III, and MX Peacekeeper missiles, through the atomic and neutronic and nuclear tests in the desert leaving 5000 year residues of so many dusts, gases, metals and other unimaginable materials inundating our breathing air--we have learned to no longer fear death, but only fear not living hard enough, deep enough, sweet enough with whatever good we have been given."

--Clarissa Pinkola Estes in La Pasionaria: A Manifesto on the Creative Fire

First, the not-so-good news: We live summarily surrounded by a death cult in ever so many ways. We live in a time when we have become startlingly conscious. This forces us to face the fact that palpable evil is loose in the world and that spiritual combat is the order of the day.

Now, the good news: We are the leaders we have been waiting for. And never has there been a group of souls on earth who are more fit, more educated, more able and honorable to lead.

There are several ways to approach spiritual leadership, that is, caring for ourselves and our children and communities. The methods are straightforward and time-tested, and I will list some here. It is true that the fear quotient has risen considerably in America. The counterbalance, in order to evade the sin of acedia, is that each heart be rededicated to life-giving endeavors. That is the requisite act of the faithful to reverse fear. Acedia is the sin of refusing to enjoy the permitted pleasures God placed before us on earth. But first, as you know, in order to proceed to the enjoyment of life, there must be reasonable containment of fear.

Terrorism is a peculiar kind of assault, unlike any other crime. The survivors' psychological patterns are closest to those found in persons who have been subjected to violent serial and group rape, wherein the perpetrators are still at large and still potentially active. Terrorism is meant to affect millions of people--all at the same time. Many think terrorists' main aim is to kill people and destroy installations. But, this is only secondary. The main goal of terrorism is "intentional trauma" to the living. Murder and mayhem are secondary goals. Terrorists understand, if only in their diseased unconscious, that accomplishing such will unleash a communicable "psychic infection," one greater than any biological or germ warfare could ever hope to achieve--one that causes innocent persons to be afraid of the future, to put off the living of life dreams, to move in ways that are far smaller, far less ebullient, than previously.

The trials of our times can deprive you of hope, fullest and openly felt hope; can cause limitations to your freedom of spirit--your living as a complete person, shoulders proud, head up, mind on goodness, and love for all, with pleasures that bring peace and happiness. The effect of living in such a crouch hurts and demeans the human spirit and heart. But there are other ways to live, and lead. Understand that how you react to stressors influences how others around you react. If you model creative life, certainty of soul, self-care, and embracing of others, you will be emulated in much of what you have chosen to do. That is leadership.

1) Limit outside cultural input according to your own and your family's psychological and spiritual tolerances and needs.

I remember the so-called "Cold War." Every night in the 1950s at our humble table in the boondocks, the small golden eye of the radio would buzz and radio stations would drift, punctuating our talk at the dinner table. …

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