Don Beldur: Mr. Fear


By Howard Hawhee

Read the introduction to the Quaker Pathways Forward – Rekindling the Fire of Fox community of practice here.

I’VE BEEN TRYING  to connect with my fear. We are invited in the Quaker Pathways Forward – Rekindling the Fire of Fox community of practice to personify, get to know, converse with, and even befriend our deep underlying fear. 

I remembered a personage from early Spanish literature with a Basque name, Don Beldur (Sir Fear or Mr. Fear) and began to think of my fear as Don Beldur. I’m able to see his vague form sitting before me in the dark. 

Last Sunday, a couple of hours before Meeting for Worship, some Friends were in a small group for worship sharing. A Friend who I very much admire for her spirituality and activism (especially around climate change) talked about how she was having trouble finding that of God in the President and how it was probably fear that was impeding her from doing this.

I then decided to talk about something I usually keep to myself,  about how I have felt for most of my life that North American society is based on imperialism and genocide, and that whoever is president is by definition our War-Criminal-in-Chief, so that although at one time or another the progression of destruction might have a prettier face on it, it’s pretty much the same from one leader to the next. Therefore, I really don’t have any more fear with this president as the figurehead than I’ve had at any other time.

The breakthrough for me
came a couple of hours later when that same Friend came up to me and said something along the lines of, “I have come to the same realization that you have about our society, but only recently. And I wonder how you have kept it together all these years emotionally and with sanity.” I said that, well, first off, this was just my country, the country where I live, and here we are. We are where we are; it is just what we have to deal with, and that I have no illusion about being in a fundamentally different situation had I been born and raised in a different country.  

I did remark, though, that a kind of dread has come over me for the past few years. I wake up in the morning with this sense of an impending “something.” I told her that this dread seems to have settled on the environmental catastrophe both current and impending. This fear is newer and overtook me more suddenly when I was older.  

The Friend also apologized for disturbing me with this questioning, but I told her that she had made me realize that I really am very OK sharing about this, this source of deep dread over the fate of our species and our planet, and this sense of accepting what our society really is, that I have come to be at peace with, without accepting it or giving up on changing it.

I’ve somehow gotten to where I can dialog with the older fear that was perhaps the awareness of living in a society predicated on destruction and subordination. I now see the way to personify and dialog with my newer fear of planetary ecological destruction. 

We spoke in our last community of practice discussion about each of us bringing our own uniqueness and exploring our unique fear in the group. I realized that this is what we are doing in our monthly community of practice group, in Sunday’s worship sharing, and that this is what the Friend and I were doing last Sunday.

I have always known in my head, but perhaps am beginning to be able to feel with the rest of myself, that a community is possible around a cheerful, resolute, realistic response to impending global destruction and that we can build the emotional and spiritual basis for that among ourselves.


Howard Hawhee is a member of Austin (TX) Friends Meeting.