To the Editor:

I am a blessed to be from this place and of this place. I am grateful for the generations of Vermonters who have come before me, and those that will come after me. That being said, I came across this passage the other day and wanted to share it. I have been mulling over the use of fear as motivation for a long time now, and want to share my perspective with anyone who cares to hear it. Following is an excerpt from an old book entitled “Tao Te Ching.”

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,

the factories make trucks and tractors.

When a country goes counter to the Tao, warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,

no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,

no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear, will always be safe.

I have thought about this concept for a long time prior to knowing it as a passage from the Tao Te Ching. Particularly I have been concerned with the concept of using fear to motivate and whether goals can ever be reached from this position.

When we orient toward fear, we move away from something rather than to it. We create separation and resistance. There are times in life when fear is necessary, but those are instances of immediate survival. Fear is a very helpful and healthy response when running away from a lion for example, but we should be wary of engaging with this form of motivation for longer than it takes to outrun the lion.

If we run on fear for too long, we begin to degrade ourselves, our environment and our community, resulting in the destruction of the very life we so fearfully cling to. This passage is particularly important to me right now while we are embroiled in the COVID crisis, with fear swirling all around us.

We have been running from the lion for over a year, some of us longer. Where are we running to? What is our goal? What are we moving toward? Is it merely about self-preservation? Not dying? How many of us are perishing as a result of not dying? Has our fear of a virus and our subsequent war on it been in harmony with life? Are we safe in our double masks, quarantine bubbles, social distancing and slathering of anti-microbials?

Simply looking at these words we can begin to see how we have moved away from life in our effort to preserve it. Quarantine, mask, mandate, distance, isolate, anti. There is no room for life in these words; they are oppressive.

Are we any safer as a result of our war on disease? Are we healthier, happier and more secure, or are we slowly perishing? What if instead we oriented toward harmony and health? What if we stopped protecting ourselves and instead operated on what is good and life promoting? What if our response to COVID was to support more farmers, build soil and get people back to the land? What if instead of the trillions of dollars spent on vaccines, we put that money into nourishing food and access to the outdoors for everyone, cleaning up our waterways and removing air pollution? What if we helped those stuck in intergenerational poverty and disease rise up and become stewards of their own bodies rather than victims?

What if rather than defending against death we created opportunity for life? Ultimately death is inevitable, but a good life must be cultivated.

Emily Rooney-Bryan

Morrisville

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