Fear is as Commonplace as Oxygen

An Artist who Never Cowered from Being his Unconventional Self

“Few people in the two centuries since Emerson issued his exhortation to “trust thyself” have countered this culturally condoned blunting of individuality more courageously and consistently than E.E. Cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962) — an artist who never cowered from being his unconventional self because, in the words of his most incisive and competent biographer, he “despised fear, and his life was lived in defiance of all who ruled by it.”

— Maria Popova, “The Marginalian

Fear is as commonplace as oxygen.
We all encounter it —
in ourselves,
in simple conversations
with strangers, with a friend.
Imagine yourself in the midst of people you know, and
As if blossoming inside you like an
Allergen, you feel an irritation
Erupt — and explode from you as
Suddenly as if the pollen maker
Himself had driven it up your nose.
Then and there you let loose the bothersome
Reminder that fears unfurling into the atmosphere
Roll into toxic clouds, build up and up
Until a storm breaks.
This time, you are the storm cloud.
There are a few weathered souls who
Step out into it, let it wash over them,
Drink in the ozone as the lightening snaps
And retreats. They shrug and apply
Simple mathematics to the existence of all
Natural experiences — Into each life
A little rain must fall, after all.
But, also, it happens that
A fog of anxiety rises, revealing
The choir of the inconvenienced,
Those who must have at least
One gnashing of teeth per day to
Feel full, to feel seen, who must
Sharpen their recollection of any
So-called incident so they can
Wound their own skin with it.
The choristers each finds their notes
And d.c. al fine to their own
Part, their own denouement, lacing a
Harmony of well-ordered
Righteousness. What was a
Simple squall is now a
Maelstrom of trembling
Expectations, twisted up into
A candy floss treat of remorse.
There’s no way out but to
Deadhead amends, and
Walk away: one can’t cure the dread
And funk of another, tangled up
In the qualms and phobias of
Mores. It’s fine, just fine, to
Walk on, past the dark
Unknowing, through the discomfort,
Into the unread. Beyond lies the
River of Wonder, where so
Few have been brave enough
To tread.

If you and I didn’t have temperament, we should now become ordinary humdrum academicians. But, being temperamental, we scorn all forms of academic guidance and throw ourselves on the world, eager to suffer — eager to become, through agony, Artists with capital A.

— ee cummings