Becoming intimate with fear

Philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry. (Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur dichten.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value


Maggie NelsonI’ve often written about things that terrify me—likely out of compulsion more than hope for comfort, or catharsis; as Peter Handke says near the end of his horrified memoir of his mother’s suicide, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, “It is not true that writing has helped me.” So it goes. And yet: follow the fear long enough, or far enough, and it may give way—to an unearthly clarity (à la Celan), or great comedy (à la Beckett). Or, the grill of your attention might just wear it out. In these places, I find peace.


Tarkovsky, Stalker (1979), film still


Or you might want to choose the buddhist way – (ala Pema Chödrön):

Pema Chödrön describes a liberating way to relate to our fears: not as something to try to get rid of or cast out, but as something we became very intimate with. In so doing, she explains, we come to find that the journey of knowing fear is in fact the journey of courage. From this wisdom, we learn to embrace the fullness of our experience in life.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. litlove says:

    Oh such fantastic quotes – thank you! Love these.

  2. KM Huber says:

    Lovely combination of quotes illustrating the one path of fear and courage. In particular, I like the idea of courage as an “unearthly clarity” in the Maggie Nelson quote–stunning, that. As you know, Pema Chodron’s “The Places That Scare You” is a text I return to time and again. As this post illustrates, becoming intimate with fear is just part of the whole experience available to us. Just a lovely post, Sigrun. Thank you.

    1. Sigrun says:

      I’ve been working with fear in my own meditation praxis lately, trying to stay in the middle of fear. Its painful & frightening, but I do believe that it’s the only way to go.
      It makes me very happy to see how thoughts about art and mindfulness can intertwine and enrich one another.

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