It was the Fall of 1969. My first semester at Antioch College and I boarded a bus to join the Vietnam War protest in Washington D.C. At one point, there was some commotion and while some people started running away from it, I found myself drawn to running toward it. Nothing dramatic ended up happening, but I was surprised by my impulse to run toward the center of the fray rather than away from it. It wasn’t thought-out or intentional, just came from the gut.
Recently I read a piece by Michael Meade called “running to the roar.” Here’s what he says:
An old teaching story comes from the great African savannahs where life pours forth in the form of teeming, feeding herds. As the herds eat their way across the plains, lions wait in the tall grass nearby, anticipating the chance to prey upon the grazing animals. In preparation, they send the oldest and weakest members of the pride away from the rest of the hunting pack. Having lost much of their strength and most of their teeth, the roar of the old ones is far greater than their ability to bite.
The old lions go off and settle in the grass directly across from where the strong and hungry lions wait and watch. As the herd enters the area between the hunting pack and the old lions, the old ones roar mightily. At the sound of the roaring, most of the herd panics. Blinded by fear, they turn and flee from the seeming source of danger. As they rush wildly in the opposite direction, they run right to where the strongest lions wait in the tall grass for dinner to arrive.
“Run towards the roar,” the old people used to tell the young ones. When faced with great danger in this world, run towards the roaring, go where you fear to go, for only there will you find some safety and a way through danger. Trouble that is faced when it first appears can be the roar that awakens a person’s deepest resources. In times of trouble or tragedy, a person either steps into life more fully or else slips into a diminished life characterized by fear and anxiety.
The modern world has begun to roar in a big way and fear has become the dominant emotion amongst people of all ages. Old folks fear that they will lose health care and retirement benefits; those in their prime earning years fear that they can’t earn enough or could lose their jobs at any moment; and young people fear that there is no place for them in this fearful world where the whole thing could seemingly end at any moment.
And now yet more fear. A Senate who ignores the basic protocols of justice, a President who brought us to the brink of war with Iran and of course, the corona virus. The impulse to give over your power to some Big Daddy who promises to take care of it all and is amongst the most unqualified and ignorant persons to actually do so means running straight into the sharp teeth of the young lions waiting to devour you. When we finally wake up and realize that the roaring rallies and insulting tweets come from the tired old men with no actual teeth—and equally the tired old men in our psyche trying to shut down our clear thinking and caring passion—then we can finally face the real dangers and get to work.
Something to consider.