The internet is not my friend. I know this. And yet, I have a sudden question about the color of my baby’s diaper rash, I google, and within 15 minutes I’m convinced both me and my baby are probably going to die from some terrible disease. And it is usually a forum of mothers that convinces me of this fact. Internet forums are the most dangerous place on the world wide web.
It seems to me that ever since 9/11 fear-mongering has become an acceptable part of the American culture. Perhaps it always existed and I was unaware or immune. Either way, it is everywhere -the radio and TV pundits do it, the printed press does it, and each of us in our own way buys into it and then does it to our friends, family, and possibly even perfect strangers(maybe even on internet forums!) Our brother-in-law mentions he’s thinking of putting in a pool and we tell him about that horrible story we just read about the three year old who drowned when the mother turned her back for a second. Just a second! Suddenly a pool is a dangerous fearful thing, rather than gallons and gallons of watery fun. What does all this fear accomplish? Does it make us any safer? It’s as if we’ve all forgotten that we have common sense. It seems we also forget that we can’t control …well, anything.
One of my favorite children’s books, which was gifted to us by a family in SKY’s Youth Empowerment program, is Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth. The lesson on the Buddhist practice of equanimity, in which little Michael learns from Stillwater the Panda that nothing is good and nothing is bad - it all simply is - is quite profound. We began faithfully reading it to our son when he was about five weeks old, well before he could ever comprehend it, mostly because it was such a good reminder for us.
Even with my awareness of this culture of fear and the tendency towards categorizing everything as “good” or “bad”, I still struggle to practice equanimity. I’m human! (as I need to constantly remind myself, checking the ego as I do). These horror stories, that are usually being told because they are so out of the norm that they become "newsworthy", tug at the emotions of my mental self. The intellectual and spiritual selves, the parts of me that know that nothing is good and nothing is bad, everything simply is, must step in before I begin the spiral into “we’re all going to die!”.
Sometimes the higher selves makes it in time, sometimes they don’t. Either way, my conclusion that we’re all going to die is not inaccurate. We are all going to die. And we can’t control how or where. But a life of fear is no life at all, nor can it be led by love. And chances are good that we’re not going to die of complications from a diaper rash.
And so, inspired by Stillwater the Panda’s story about equanimity, anytime my mind starts to get caught up in the fear and begins to wonder, “will this happen?”, “will that happen?”, I take a breath and just tell myself, “maybe”.