Bene Gesserit’s litany against fear (from Frank Herbert’s Dune)
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
I fear the sky will fall. That is all. Like Caesar’s Fifth Legion, Alaudae, the Larks.
But this is a many faceted fear. What if the sky doesn’t kill me, but kills instead the handful of people I cannot live without? What if it breaks my legs so I cannot run anymore? – I run every day of my life, not from something, but at something, as a wolf crossing fields and forests, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied. I run as my poor dog would, were it not mine, had it not chosen to pledge its life to me. What if that freedom run is taken from me, with the falling sky?
What if the falling sky takes with it the light – and I can never see the faces I love – have I seen them enough to last me for the rest of my days? I’ll make a promise to myself: one day, I hope soon, I will make a trip to all the corners of Earth where there is someone I love – only to look at them carefully, make sure their faces never fade from memory.
But I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Like hope, it make you choose not to fight – or worse, it makes that choice for you. I will not fear. If my heart is to beat faster, it will never be for fear – not such a wasteful reason. I will let fear pass through me, for I am aware that fear is not mine, it lives outside my soul and raids it every now and then. I will seek its path and when it has gone, there will be nothing.
The litany is wrong. When fear has gone, there will be nothing. Not even me. When fear has gone, I will be gone. Where fear is, freedom is. They cannot be separated. I am not free if I do not fear my choices can be wrong. I am not free if I do not fear that with my choices I could injure other people. When I start to fear, I start to be free.
Counting my lessons: to be Victorious; to be Humble; to be Generous; to be Free. Are these all the lessons that I need to know, oh, life of mine? Can I finally choose someone, or let myself be chosen by someone? A love of my own, no more lessons, no more victories, no more defeats, just an end to the war…
Nah, what am I saying?! I live for the war, it’s in my blood! Peace is the real mind killer. Hurray for King Henry V:
„Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.”