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Who's to Blame?

Something is terribly wrong with us, and has been for a very long time.

Anxiety, depression, and mood disorders ravage the human experience of life everywhere. If you are a human being, there is a very good chance that you suffer from one or more of the hundreds of psychological disorders defined in the professional literature.

The chances are also very good that you have attempted or thought about suicide as a solution to your suffering at some point in your life. Or maybe you know someone who has. Shockingly enough, for human beings between the ages of 11 and 44, suicide is one of the top three causes of death worldwide. Suicide attempts are as much as 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.

If you take a close, objective look at the behavior of human beings, you will find it hard not to conclude that humanity is—that is to say, we are—for the most part, insane.

Sane human beings do not rape, murder, and torture each other. Sane human beings do not devastate the habitat, do not seek wealth without regard for the common good, or seek to dominate or demonize other human beings.

Sane human beings are compassionate and fair-minded. They honor practical intelligence. Sane human beings know that we are all in this life together, for better or worse.

And yet, after all we have seen and done; after all the butchery and pillage and plunder we have inflicted on ourselves and others; after all we have learned about the nature of things, after all the religious, philosophical, spiritual, psychological, social and economic work we have done trying to understand why all that happens and to help us live up to a standard of behavior in keeping with our actual nature, we continue to murder, torture, rape, dominate, demonize, butcher, pillage and plunder one another.

How can it be, after all we have seen and done, that we still seem hell-bent on spoiling our own habitat and stubbornly resist doing anything about it? Instead, we bicker while the earth burns.

So, it's a fair question: Who is to blame for all this madness? Who is to blame for all this horror?


Well, no one. No one is to blame.

All of our self-defeating and aggressive habits of behavior and relationship, all of our misery and disappointment in ourselves and in our lives spring from one simple cause: the fear of life itself, which drives us insane.

The fear of life is the cause of it all. It comes upon almost all of us accidentally, at or near birth, when the shock and violence of our arrival here sets the context and contaminates the soil within which our entire psychology—all of our understandings, our bedrock assumptions, our likes and dislikes, our sense of identity itself—will take form over time.

The fear of life is a psychological autoimmune disease. It seeks to protect us from the danger of being alive by holding life itself at arms' length lest we fall in and perish. It warps the lens of personal psychology through which we perceive the meaning, validity, and the likely effect of everything that happens to us, with us, within us, and around us. It creates and maintains the delusion that life is not safe, that life is not to be trusted. It spoils life for us.

The fear of life disease is the cause of it all, and the worldwide madness is the face of its symptoms: the greed, murder, torture, rape, domination, demonization, butchering, pillaging. and plundering.

The most common and the most effective tactic that the disease deploys in the effort to try to shelter us from life itself, to protect us from just being alive and aware of what's going on, is denial. It is the holding on to an idea that, "Well, everything is pretty bad now, but it has always been bad. I'm going to be okay. I'm not really all that sick. I'm not really all that miserable. It's going to be okay. There are a lot of people out there doing good work. Things will work out."

I tell you, from my heart, there is a growing urgency about our situation now. The stench of war is spreading quickly now, in Iraq, Syria, Israel, the Far East, Ukraine, to name just a few. Just the other day, warring factions in Ukraine shot down a passenger airliner filled with innocent people, slaughtering all aboard. Wars and rumors of war abound.

This morning I was reading an article in Harper's magazine about the origins of the First World War, the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of which we observed last month. The article explained what was happening in the world at the time, and it described the feeling of being alive at the time. There was an all-pervasive state of hopelessness, denial, despair, boredom, and malaise, a lack of interest in life. There was a sense that there wasn't anything anyone could do to change things, to make things better.

But when the assassination of the Archduke of Austria triggered the war, it produced an explosion of excitement in the world. The event offered the possibility of moving out of that generalized misery and hopelessness and boredom into a fresh and wondrous life adventure, something in which people could reclaim the feeling of being alive, of being excited and enthralled by the possibilities inherent in just being alive.

All of this was, of course, merely an opportunity to move to the exterior the misery that had been festering internally for the entire population of human beings in the world at that time.

And also, of course, that excitement did not last very long. Soon, all of Europe was drenched in blood, and the horror and stench of war covered the earth.

There is a growing urgency about our situation now. The feel of what it was like a hundred years ago is showing its ugly head once again. The possibility of moving against an exterior enemy instead of constantly chewing over the internal misery, confusion and complication is here again.

But no one is to blame. You are not to blame. I am not to blame. The Russians are not to blame, the Serbs, the inflamed religious warriors, the Israelis, the Palestinians, the warlords in Africa, the drug merchants in South America, the impotent Western democracies are not to blame.

No one is to blame. Every single human being who is behaving in a way that is self-destructive, insane, and hateful is doing so from a diseased mind that has been spoiled by the sense that there is something wrong here that makes life not worth living, and the desperate need to do something about it. Every single person who is engaging in self-destructive behavior and spreading the misery to others is doing so because of the fear. You can't blame them, any more that you can blame a rabid dog for attacking people.

So here we are again, caught again in the cyclical pattern of inflicting upon others and ourselves ever greater horrors. That sweet allure of externalizing the inner misery is back again, with greater strength and destructive power than ever before. Only this time, we are on the verge of spoiling the habitat we share with all other creatures, driven by the madness that sees life itself to be the enemy.


But there is a solution to this misery and madness. If you will make one attempt to get the direct experience of what it feels like to be you, what you refer to when you say "me," the cause of this sickness will be destroyed, and you will begin a journey from fearfulness and confusion to self-reliance and love of life.

There is no need to take on any new understanding or belief to do this, and there is no need to abandon any existing understanding or belief that you may hold. You do not even need to believe that it will work.

Carla and I receive confirming reports from people all over the world every day.  

These reports always follow the same pattern. After one tries to get a taste of the feel of me, there is often a period of sweetness and wellbeing which is followed by an onslaught of distress and disturbance, which can be misunderstood. Some may even lose faith in the act for a time. That period of distress is caused by the reconstruction of the mind as it regenerates itself as new, healthy psychological mechanisms take the place of old, diseased ones.

We have come to see it as a period of recovery, and it does not last forever. After some time, it fades away and clarity and sanity begin to dawn. A new relationship with life itself begins to form that is not marked by conflict and alienation. An understanding of the true nature of human existence begins to appear. We become truly human, free of fear.

We blame no one. We have no enemies. The disease is to blame and it can be cured without blaming or punishing anyone, without requiring anyone to change the way they think or the way they live their lives.

John Sherman
August 2, 2014

How to be free of the fear of life.