Many, many moons ago I read a series of books by Carlos Castaneda. The books were not that good, although this is something that realized only long after I had read them. But, like many things I’ve learned since then, we can learn things from the most surprising of places. Castaneda’s books presented an idea of life that I have not since forgotten.
In a discussion with a wise, old Indian, Castaneda finds that we have four enemies in life: fear, power, clarity, and old age. I have since thought much about these enemies. Now that life has presented me with yet another challenge, they come to mind again. The story is similar to many of the stories we learn to not disregard so quickly.
The first enemy, fear, is the easiest enemy to understand, and when we understand fear, we have in fact defeated it. The problem with these enemies is that they never tire in their attacks. When we have defeated fear, then comes power. Power is often thought of as enlightenment but it is trickster. Power is not enlightenment, but blind capability. We must defeat power by understanding that it is an illusion. But power, like fear, never tires in its attack.
Clarity, or enlightenment, is the prize in overcoming the illusion of power. But enlightenment, like the other enemies, is a precarious path that we must take care when we follow it. Arrogance (power) is often the result of careless enlightenment. Dogma is the result when we cease to ask questions. When we cease to ask questions fear begins its work. When we come to realize that we have completed the circle, only to begin again, we are often too old to correct mistakes; we can never defeat old age.
And so it is with a particular endeavor that I now spend time fearing, overcoming, understanding, and again fearing. It seems that the only thing left is to grow old, but I need to grow old at least trying, even if failure is the only option. I have a dream that I fear because I know that I have the power to achieve it because I am aware of the work required. I am only left with the time to do it, and that is running shorter every minute of the day.