It is surprising how much human behavior is driven by pain and fear of pain. Even typical mundane everyday activities are driven by pain, and grand national movements are driven by pain and fear of pain. That seems an overstatement until the obvious facts are looked at and the underlying motives are related to their observed effects. I noticed the driving effect of fear when doing my series on the 1,000 World Heritage Sites. Many of those sites are natural sites, like the Grand Canyon, and they don’t count, but those things constructed by human effort are fear-driven, like the Great Wall of China, as protection from the Mongols. Even a monument such as the Pyramids of Egypt, have a component of fear of death built into them, as they were designed to resurrect the Pharaoh and his family.
Wars are driven by fear of alien populations taking our land, property and lives, and this fear presently consumes a huge portion of the US taxpayers’ dollars. The police structure also consumes a lot of money that we willingly pay, to protect us personally from who, our not so neighborly neighbors. The very fences around our property, and the walls of our homes, and the locks on the door, and the guns under some people’s pillows are all there because of fear. All of that seems obvious enough, but let’s look at some of the benign things we surround ourselves with, that we spend huge sums of money on. What has fear to do with our car, or our clothes, or our job?
Why do Americans insist on having huge gas-guzzling SUVs, instead of fuel-efficient small cars? It isn’t to get from point A to point B, as that can be easily done at half the cost in a small car, and at one tenth the cost if one tries; no, the reason is one of fear of being thought inferior by other people. People are willing to go to considerable expense to appear as important and prosperous as possible, and are willing to go into debt to support that fantasy. Of course buying this superficial status often requires going into debt, and that in turn requires holding down a job, with as fancy a title as possible, to pay for the debt, and that in turn means the debtor lives in fear of losing the job, and then losing everything. Personal fear thus permeates even the most normal simple actions of most people. They have so integrated this background of fear they don’t even recognize it as fear, but only as free-floating anxiety.
There is a simple way to end those economic-induced fears, and that is to spend less money than you have and build up a ready reserve of cash. When you have a reserve, and you know you can depend on your reserve to get you through any expected crisis, that type of fear will evaporate. It is possible to maintain some reserves in everything you do. Not only money but also time, energy, space and even health can have a buffering reserve built into them, and when you have those reserves the fear that may be associated with their loss is only a distant possibility.
There are some things that are inevitable, like death, but the fact that it is inevitable can become a comfort because it is a known thing and can thus be thought about and accepted. Once it is accepted that you and your consciousness will not be here at some distant time and place, say a million years from now, and you are comfortable with that, then it is just a question of moving that distant time a little closer, and a little closer until it is the next moment. There isn’t much difference once you are comfortable with the inevitability of this aspect of reality. Once the loss of life itself is accepted then the many pains of living can be more easily accepted as the stimulus of the moment, and the worrisome agony of long-term endurance can be ignored.
Most pain and most fear of pain can be avoided by creating surplus in place of scarcity.