How often do you use fear to take you to the edge?

Today is May 24 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you use fear to take you to the edge?” Science fiction writer Frank Herbert, author of Dune, the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, wrote “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well come to understand how to use fear to take them to the edge, to push them to the edge, and to challenge themselves beyond what they thought possible. Translating dreams into reality will no doubt expose you to fear; but will you give in? Will you let fear scare you away?

The 2001 novel Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, tells the story of protagonist Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, an Indian Tamil boy from Pondicherry who explores issues of spirituality and metaphysics from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger which raises questions about the nature of reality and how it is perceived and told. On confronting fear Martel wrote: “I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”


Author Judy Blume learned a few things about confronting fear while writing young adult novels about topics some consider taboo such as masturbation, menstruation, birth control, and death. She has had to deal with criticism from individuals and groups that wanted her books banned. The American Library Association (ALA) has named Blume as one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century. Despite her critics, Blume's books have sold over 82 million copies and they have been translated into 32 languages. On a personal level Blume has also confronted fear.


On August 15, 1959, in the summer of her freshman year of college, she married John M. Blume, who she had met while a student at New York University. He became a lawyer, while she was a homemaker before supporting her family by teaching and writing. They had two children, but the couple divorced in 1976 with Blume later describing the marriage as "suffocating." Shortly after her separation, she met Thomas A. Kitchens, a physicist. The couple married and moved to New Mexico for Kitchens' work. They divorced in 1978. She later spoke about their split: "It was a disaster, a total disaster. After a couple years, I got out. I cried every day. Anyone who thinks my life is cupcakes is all wrong." As Blume wrote “Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.” Steven Spielberg understood all too well what Blume meant.


The 1975 American thriller film Jaws directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel offers just one example of how Spielberg used fear to push him. Despite the movie’s tremendous success, Jaws had to overcome a variety of obstacles that included:


a)the original stuntman the studio hired was not suited for the job;

b)the young director demanded perfection and refused to shoot in a tank;

c)the movie’s budget more than doubled and went from $3.5 million to $8 million

d)the shooting schedule tripled from an original 55 days to 159 and

e)the mechanical sharks began to deteriorate in salt water and

f)the ships started to sink.


Jaws producer David Brown said "There were times early in the picture when we felt we had made a mistake hiring Steven who was maddeningly perfectionistic…and I have to hand it to him for sticking to his guns." In a New York Times interview Spielberg said: “Every movie I make, there’s a hurdle to it. I look for things that will scare me. Fear is my fuel. I get to the brink of not really knowing what to do and that’s when I get my best ideas. Confidence is my enemy, and it always has been…There is a fear of getting lost and then staying lost in a quagmire of having made a bad choice that I am stuck with for the next 60 days of shooting. I felt that way on Jaws only because it was so hard to make, not because I did not know how to make it. I was lost. For a movie that became awesomely successful and gave me complete personal creative freedom, I still look back at it and even now say it was my most unhappy time in my life as a filmmaker because whole days would go by and we wouldn’t get a shot.”


How often do you use fear as fuel to take you to the brink of not knowing what to do?