My dad was an English Teacher and he loved to talk. He loved to tell stories. I think he enjoyed the attention at the front of his class; he was a passionate teacher. My brother and I certainly didn’t offer him the respect teachers are deserving of. His class-front podium with the undivided attention of dozens, filled the gap.
I remember being in his class, as a young student in the middle grades and hearing him share about being a parent and what it’s like to watch your children grow up. An interesting perspective for the class to consider, the experience of their parents as they watched them ‘become themselves’. The story he offered originated from a poem by Erma Bombeck.1
Of course, this story of Bombeck’s was reiterated by my dad that day with the utmost dramatic emotion (as was his style) with a dash of his own license. Here’s what I remember of what he shared: a man holding a kite on a hill by the ocean, the kite lifting higher and higher on the wind, the man allowing the kite to lift and the man never letting go of the string.
Either my dad has never let go of the string or perhaps, the string is very strong. Whatever the reason, I can see this kite suspended way up in the sky and, upon closer inspection, I can see the kite jerking on the wind, stretching the string to snap, trying to break free. The control is excruciating and the anxiety of being held back, imminent. The struggle for my dad is in the fear of letting go, losing control. Unfortunately, the result has been a profound anxiety manifest by the kite in the fear of breaking free, so as to fly away.
In his book, How Fear Works, Frank Furedi writes that ‘from an early age, people are educated to become preoccupied with their safety, and to regard being fearful as a sensible and responsible orientation towards the world’2. The system of socialization, a depression caused by a culture of fear, hones its victim into such a fearful state so as to be moved by ‘fear appeals’3.
There seems to be a manipulative and strategic force of domination (subversive to our souls and corruptive to original form) that is affecting our focus, estranging us ‘from values – such as courage, judgement, reasoning and responsibility – that are necessary for the management of fear’4. In a world that adjusts by fear, a world that has become less prone to true struggle and challenge, true resilience and grit have become inessential verging on obsolete. ‘The ideal of courage has been downsized’5, Furedi writes. Perhaps, the courage of our time can be likened to the ability to not only succumb to and endure cowardliness but, to relentlessly endorse its tenets of survival.
The kite, once soaring and yearning to break free, falls to the ground. The wind dies down, the man holding the kite becomes weak and dies, all that’s left is an empty sky. A safe sky and deadened desire.
Fear can oppress, it can inspire, and fear can be a question that beckons a response from our soul, from our True Self. In a devotional of Henri Nouwen’s the reflection is offered of Jesus predicting ‘that people will die of fear “as they await what menaces the world” (Luke 21:26)’6. Yet, the encouragement follows as ‘he says to his followers: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36)’7. Here is a standard for faith, a measuring stick for integrity and courage: there is no ‘giving up’ with Jesus. The sky of Christ is abounding with free-flying kites.
Recall the fire-eyed words of Jesus as he stepped into the fray: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor.” (Luke 4:18, Jerusalem Bible).
- Erma Bombeck. Erma Bombeck > Quotes > Quotable Quotes (GoodRead Inc.: 2020), https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7674615-children-are-like-kites-you-spend-years-trying-to-get
- Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the 21st Century (Great Britain: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), 177.
- How Fear Works, 177.
- How Fear Works, 33.
- How Fear Works, 182.
- Henri Nouwen, Live Confidently (Henri Nouwen Society: October 3, 2020), https://henrinouwen.org/resources/daily-meditation/
- Ibid, Live Confidently.