There was an old story once long ago in China that was told to its people. It might have been told by an emperor or magistrate to his people, or something along those lines. Anyway, the story goes that a couple was walking in the woods one day. They left the boundary of their territory, village, what have you, and came to the grim discovery that the entire outside world was nothing but a giant spider. This dismayed the couple, to say the least. In fact, it ruined their lives.
As most of us may suspect, the story wasn’t true. It was told as a way to keep the people within the boundary, content and obedient. And it worked. They were thankful to stay and play by the rules, thankful to not have to discover the terror that may lie beyond the boundary.
It made ruling over them a lot easier. When people think you have given them mercy, they are grateful for you, even if you are slapping them in the face. Times may be tough, and people may not agree with everything happening in their homeland, but at least they didn’t have to discover that the outside world was really just a giant spider!
The fear of learning more –learning too much– is a common theme in humanity’s history. Eve’s eating of the fruit, Pandora opening the box– these come to mind. It is usually a woman who starts the trouble, isn’t it? 😉
People are easy to control and manipulate, because it is our nature to want security. We want someone else to protect us, someone else to be in charge, and if someone warns us not to look behind the curtain we are all too willing to oblige because the fear of changing the way we live and think is much more terrifying to us than admitting that all our previous senses of security were built on lies. We put authority into the hands of others as sheep to a shepherd, and we are grateful for it. We don’t even mind that maybe we are being preyed on. To most people, knowing more is simply not worth the risk.
When it comes to birth, we have a choice: believe in the spider, or risk the knowledge of everything that lies beyond the territory, even if it terrifies us. Face the unknown, or live inside the box. We have a choice to recognize that authority does not always present the truth or the whole truth for reasons which benefit them and/or maintain a system. Sometimes authority itself believes the tale, and in such ways are not entirely to blame. The emperor in this story, like many doctors and midwives you know, perhaps did not make up the tale himself. Maybe he was told by the previous ruler, or by an adviser, or read it in a historical text, and they so believed as did the people of the countryside– never venturing or wandering. Never straying.
I’ve seen the land beyond the boundary. I promise you, it does not consist solely of a giant spider. Fear was taught to us by authority, written in books given TO authority, and everyone took everyone else’s word for it. Question. Seek. You will find.
Besides, even if I were wrong or lying, wouldn’t you rather discover the truth for yourself? Wouldn’t you rather know if the spider beyond the land were a fact, or would you too be content to live the rest of your life in obedience within the boundary that others mapped out for you?
“But doesn’t fear save lives, Elizabeth?”
Not really. For the intention of freeing your minds, I like to differentiate between fear and instinct/knowledge/wisdom. The villagers in the story stay within their territory due to a common human trait– fear of the unknown; fear that was instigated and perpetuated by authority figures as a means to control. This fear, like most fear, was based on falsehood and illusion.
Instinct, knowledge, and wisdom, however, is what keeps us safe. It is not ignorance or fear that keeps us from putting our hand in a fire. Sure, no one desires to get hurt, but for the sake of this conversation, I wouldn’t call that “fear”, per se. We have the truthful understanding that it is all too likely we will cause ourselves harm to put our hand in fire. That instinct keeps us safe.
When it comes to birth, many live in fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear from the stories they were told. They are controlled by what they are told, and live contentedly within the boundaries painted for them because they believe in the giant spider beyond. They would rather “play it safe”, because popping the bubble of the security illusion to risk finding out great terrors is not something most people choose to face.
It takes a certain leap of faith that these terrors were illusions in order to proceed beyond, and I would argue also good perception, intuition, and wisdom are required. Those of us returning with stories of the realities are laughed off, called liars, called reckless and dangerous, even censored. Some of you will believe that, but some of you will grow skeptical, begin to question, and maybe… just maybe… walk into the woods for yourself. That’s what makes it all worth it.
The truth is that there are some spiders beyond the woods of birth (metaphorically speaking), but most of them are manageable. The world is not just a spider, it’s the world. It has many things, and most spiders are little and benevolent. Like everything in life, there are potential dangers, and also glorious beauties and discoveries, but entirely worth believing in yourself enough to take the walk and live your life, free.