It Is In, And Out
“Perfect fearlessness can be attained only by him who [is free] from delusions.” —Ghandi
I first learned about potential energy in 5th grade. Surrounded by the faux-walls and dark wood of Bancroft Elementary School, my red-bordered generic science textbook explained types of gravitational energy with a simple example: a roller-coaster. From a pale, computer-generated image, I could see that the cars had the most potential energy while sedentary at the top of the hill; as they actually moved, they lost potential energy and gained kinetic. My 12-year old self quickly caught on: position determines how much energy an object contains. I remember feeling surprised that an object at rest could still contain energy. I also thought that I didn’t particularly like potential energy because I hated the way my stomach would twist on the apexes of roller-coaster tracks.
My understanding of potential energy informs how I view my own potential. When the roller-coaster cars are at the top of a hill, their potential energy is at its peak. Yet, as soon as they are pushed off, their potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. The action of the cars is natural and gravitational; their potential is utilized to its fullest extent. On paper, it seems so easy – the only obligation is succumbing to gravity.
I am scared of potential. The rhythms of Andover have come together to create a constant force pushing me up a steeper and steeper slope: ensuring my potential energy is constantly growing. The expectations associated with an Andover diploma weigh heavier and heavier on my shoulders. By the aforementioned scientific understanding, once I get to the top, all of my potential should be converted into action as I race down the paths of life.
To be more specific: I am scared of not fulfilling my potential. I am scared that gravity might not work for me, that I won’t be up high enough, that I won’t be able to go as fast as I could. I am scared that my future achievements will not be reflective of my past ones. By concentrating on filling my potential, by constantly trying to achieve what feels innate, by having this fear in the back of my mind, I am limiting myself. The myth of potential energy is a delusion; thus, I cannot achieve fearlessness while attached to this understanding.
In a larger sense, though, and at the root of all of my fears, is a fear of death. Not death specifically, but dying before I’ve had a chance to experience More. Before I know who I am. Because there’s so much more to learn and so many more people to smile at and so many more sunrises to watch and so many more conversations to have and so many more mangoes to eat and maybe this is selfish but this life has meaning and I don’t want to give it up anytime soon. Again, by focusing on what might happen or what could happen, I am losing sight of the present moment.
I fear I am forgetting that I am alive.
The answer seems to be being. Being, with love. Being, with an open heart. Being, with conviction. Believe in your being and your fear will disappear. Maybe the trick to fearlessness is simple: it is the act of reminding yourself that you are alive: that your heart is beating, that you are breathing. It is a return to the most basic parts of yourself. It is freeing yourself from the delusions of thought. It is in, and out.