So many things in my life have come from overcoming a fear of something. It’s a natural human emotion for us to fear what we don’t know or understand. For all my childhood interest in aircraft, the first time I actually flew in an airplane was a harrowing experience. One of my high school friends actually got his pilot license before he was old enough to drive a car. My first flight was in a Cessna 172, which is a single engine, four place, light airplane. I think I ran the entire gamut of feelings. Everything from wanting to puke to I can’t believe how amazing this is. The delight and awe inspiring feeling has never left me since. I haven’t flown in an awfully long time but I feel confident I’d still enjoy it every bit as much.
Much more prominent however was my initial fear of driving. Scared of the size of the car, scared of the other cars and large trucks and ever-so-certain that anything over 45mph was going to hurl me off the planet. My father broke that on e the way home from Emporia one night. He reached his left foot over the center hump in the floorboard and smashed my foot down on the accelerator, ram-rodding the car up to hair-raising 75 mph. My heart was in my throat and I’m very sure I was close to pissing myself. We began to close rapidly on the tail of a semi when he finally blurted out “are you gonna change lanes or just run right up his ass and kill us both?!”
I signaled and moved to the left as we sailed by the tractor-trailer. The resulting adrenaline surge was intoxicating. Suddenly the big, intimidating truck was eating my dust and there were yet more trucks to blow into the weeds up ahead. The headlights faded in my mirrors and the white lines on the road that used to look like barricades were now a defining stripe. He took his foot of mine but I didn’t slow down. I could hear the engine and feel the car responding to my tiniest input. The trip down took us over 40 minutes…we came back in under 15…as we took the exit ramp headed home he was unusually quiet. When we got home I overheard him tell my mother “I think I’ve created a monster”
My job has forced me to do a very similar experience over the years. I’ve probably been trained for 10 different job positions during my tenure with Allied-Signal/ Honeywell…and many of those jobs have been dangerous as hell. I’ve seen people lose fingers, have arms and hands mangled beyond use and watched more people get various 2nd and 3rd degree burns than I care to remember. When you can hear someone yell, I don’t mean scream like in the movies, I mean yell from their gut…over and above the sound of roaring machinery…despite the fact you are wearing earplugs, is a bone-chilling sound to say the least. To see the blank and aghast face of someone who can’t believe part of their hand is gone is a hard memory to live with.
I suppose this is why I became so enthralled with Batman over all these years. Sure he’s fictional, but he’s not an alien from another planet or some man altered by radiation or what-have-you. No, here is a highly trained physical specimen of a man with genius level intelligence. Moreover, he is a mentally disciplined machine capable of quelling any personal fears for the purpose of instilling fear in those he faces. How empowering is it to be able to say to ones self “There is no need to fear the darkness, for the things that lurk in the shadows should be afraid that I am here…Criminals are a stupid and cowardly lot…so my disguise.”
Here is a man that has taken fear and his inner demons and is wearing them on the outside instead of them tormenting him from within. So does that make his costume more of what he really is or is the man underneath really the alter ego? I find him to be a fascinating character and feel like I have learned a thing or two from him.
When we get angry about various things in our lives isn’t it truly because we have inner fears over things we can’t control? We must all choose our battles carefully because the most important ones are in ourselves. It can be very easy to transfer our anger and frustration onto whoever happens to be at hand. Fear and despair are the root of anger and they seek to quell knowledge and faith.
Batman lost his parents at a young age, but Alfred still loved him like a parent, believed in him even as Bruce dove off into his personal darkness. Yet in this darkness he finally found the inner light of knowledge and with that the ability to conquer his own fear and pain. I lost my father when I was 19, my sister was married and my brother was in California for two years. I truly thought my mother was going to come unglued. Funeral arrangements and many other things fell on my shoulders or at least in a supportive role to her. That empty house with her crying in the other room were dark times indeed, but I rose stronger out of it.
Fast forward twenty odd years to when my first marriage finally fell apart. Even though we had separated once before, we had patched things up, or so I thought. I won’t say it was fated not to be because I don’t regret for a moment the time I spent raising my kids. That alone has been one of the most rewarding even if sometimes incredibly trying times of my life. But now here I was with my wife gone and my daughter with her. I have a son depending on me and I’m falling apart, especially since he considers that if he sees me crying that means I’m weak and worthless.
It isn’t like I didn’t know this had been coming for months, maybe years but it still feels like part of me has been ripped away. This was as low and dark as I have ever descended and there were times I curled up on the floor in fear, despair and deepest sadness I have ever known. Then from the whispers of prayer through anguished tears comes the voice from within that refuses to be vanquished. The spirit of the warrior from inside that stands for all that is good, hope and promise. The voice that speaks with deep but gentle authority, sounding almost like a version of yourself you barely recognize, “Rise and crush your enemies within…there are those who need you…depend on you…your mission is not yet at an end…this pain is a loss but not defeat…stand now and be stronger than ever before!”
That was turning moment in my life, one where I found that those around me want my kindness and support. They want your forgiveness and understanding and for those that reject those things, they mark themselves as part of the problem and not the solution. They shall be the ones to feel the brunt of a spirit that will not relent.
There is a confidence to be attained only on the other side of fear. A happiness to be achieved only on the other side of pain. It will always be a difficult journey, a hard battle to fight, but its rewards are both abundant and worthwhile. I am living proof.
Maybe someday I’ll be worthy “To be the Bat”
T. August Green