Scientists will frown – this is so not scientific.
Lexicographers might throw up a bit in their mouths.
I wish I could say I was sorry.
But wordhavering with Hebrew letters is much too fun.
Hebrew is so concrete. We are so abstract.
The letters of the ancient Hebrew alphabet not only double for numerals they are also concrete pictures. Which means that every Hebrew word is not only a sum of its letters, it’s also a composite picture. So, just for kicks, because I can, I’ve been looking at the pictures, using the alphabet chart on an Ancient Hebrew website as my key and palette.
And so, when a friend shared this marvelous proverb and its timely presence in her life:
I had to look at the picture of fear.
The three-letter root is chet/resh/dalet (pronounced something like cha-raid). And yes I can, and did, look it up: “fear, anxiety, quaking, trembling.” The quaking and trembling is pretty concrete, but look at the picture the letters paint (okay, it’s just a sketch on a chalkboard – and ancient Hebrew letters will probably never be the cultural hit that Chinese characters are, but just look at the picture!):
Chet = wall
Resh = head
Dalet = door
I sat with the picture for several minutes, looking at it as if it were one of those Magic Eye pictures, waiting for a 3D image to emerge.
And then it did.
Fear = encountering a wall in my head, rather than a door.
Isn’t this what fear is? What it does?
Fear builds walls within our minds, inside our souls, and those walls go viral as inner walls ultimately create their exterior counterparts. Walls of paralysis and intimidation. Walls of aggressive self-defense. Walls from which we snipe at threats, pouring boiling rhetoric unto the heads of the foes we fear.
Oh yes. Fear is having a wall in our head, instead of a door.
Of course, sometimes we should be afraid and need to encounter a wall in our head that stops us in our destructive tracks. The point of the Proverb, however, is the inner debilitating power of bad fear – a fear that stifles our voice when it needs to be heard, that wilts our presence when we need to shine.
But fear can also be a superpower, yes?.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
It can be so problematic, the contradiction. “Perfect love drives out fear,” and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Perhaps it all just depends on which syllable we’re emphasizing.
Put the emphasis on the first syllable, and we have a paralyzing wall instead of a door. Rush past the wall and put the emphasis on the second syllable, and we have a door that opens up all kinds of new possibilities and potential we would never have seen were we not stirred from our complacency to see and embrace the challenge grabbing our foot from under the bed of present reality that puts the fear of God in us.
That kind of fear we don’t need to fear.
In fact, we could all stand a jolt of that from time to time.
So is fear a wall of paralysis or is it a door of possibilities?
Yes. Yes it is.