Fear marked Benjamin’s life. He recoiled from falling leaves. He would turn around and walk the other way to evade almost-chance encounters with folks he neither cared for or didn’t trust, which was just about everybody. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he’d wake up shaking. Uncontrollably shaking. Too many Xanax became the only remedy. But too many Xanax led to that sneaking suspicion that everything was wrong. Brain shivers. Self-loathing. Unreality.
One late morning, after a night of the shakes, Benjamin went for a drive. He had no destination, but he found himself at the local park. He unexpectedly cried for a few minutes before leaving his car, and then moseyed around, eyeballing the many baseball games underway. He saw a yellow Lab walking a child next to the concession stand and felt nothing. Finally, finding a small hill some distance from the fields, Benjamin sat and half-watched the games as dusk approached. His thoughts eventually centered on his wife, Kate, as they often did. He always wanted more from her, but it would never be enough. He had never learned how to love and thus he’d suck the life out of every lover. Fear has an insatiable appetite, a fact he already knew, but suddenly conceded.
Some time ago, he had read, in Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, about the supposed source of religious sentiments:
“The derivation of religious needs from the infant’s helplessness and the longing for the father aroused by it seems to me incontrovertible, especially since the feeling is not simply prolonged from childhood days, but is permanently sustained by fear of the superior power of Fate.”At the time, Benjamin escaped the incontrovertible opinion of Freud by positing his own unassailable opinion—that the religious-needs vacuum within his heart existed as a result of his being relationally separated from the divine; that, in short, religion being present in most cultures is a result of humankind’s being created imago Dei.
Benjamin knew he could no longer muster up this belief. Fear, he realized, was far more powerful in creating religiosity than a personal Fate.
Night came. The field lights flickered off. Benjamin was jarred to stand up and walk toward his car, and he didn’t know how long he had been sitting there. Since that long morning, it seemed like he was watching his body live and move and breath, like he had no control over where it was heading, like he was merely observing the day’s events through his eyes with someone else at the helm.
He prayed that he would die on the way home. His prayer was not answered.