Something from Nothing


"Here, where there's nothing, I have something, and it's enough:  choice. I will choose anything over fear."      MacKayla Lane In Karen Marie Moning's Feversong, Mac has been imprisoned in her own mind, unable to control her body. The description reminded me of my late father, who battled ALS and ended up with an active mind trapped in a useless body. Horrifying.  A fate worse than death, I imagine. And in the midst of this hell on earth, MacKayla, unlike my father, found it in herself to choose hope, life and love over fear. My father wasn't able to make that choice, which I understood, but it devastated me. On the other hand, Mac lives in a world of magic and fantasy, while us mere mortals, including my beloved father, are stuck in reality. Given that, I wonder, as always, whether there are any truths with which fantasy can illumine reality. I suspect so.  

At first, when Mac is tricked and trapped by the evil book residing within her, she panics. Relatable. I can't even find the wherewithal to go into a float chamber, which proponents swear is supremely relaxing. The whole sensory-deprivation thing makes my skin crawl. If I could feel my skin in such a place. Mac is lost in the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, entirely cut off from her body while being left to imagine the demonic activities being perpetrated by her body parts. It's like our high school nemesis stealing our digital identity and going on a hateful rampage for which everyone holds us responsible. That would truly suck. And if the monster using our body—or our identity—was committing atrocities of the biblical sort, including deceit, death, destruction even cannibalism, and there wasn't a blessed thing we could do about it. I would probably lose my shit and descend into the eternal darkness of insanity and absolute surrender. I can't believe I wouldn't succumb to terror and unspeakable fear. Ya know, if some pod person stole my body and ran around in it. It could happen.  If I lived in Stepford, Connecticut, for example.

But what if our situation was less extreme? Because we all know that paranormal fantasy authors take circumstances and draw them in high relief so that readers can learn from their characters' mistakes—and also their successes. In this case, Mac falls briefly into despair, but quickly shakes that shit off and takes stock. She remembers the guiding principle of the Fever world, "Hope strengthens, fear kills," and she understands that no one, and no situation, can take away our ability to choose. The easier choice is often fear. The right choice is always love.

I've read the Fever series a number of times, although I've only read the latest, Feversong, once, thus far. In this last installment, Mac is subjected to the ultimate test:  can she choose hope over fear when it absolutely appears that all hope is lost? The answer, as expected, is yes, but its predictability in no way diminishes its power. 

There, in the confines of her mind, with access to nothing but her thoughts, Mac decides to choose anything over fear.  At first, the choice is beyond difficult. She goes where most of us have been, at one point or another: fear threatens to obliterate her and she craves obliteration if for no other reason than to stop the horror. But she decides that she "will not cede the crumbs of [her] existence to mindless panic."  Admirable.

I suspect that Karen Marie Moning is a devotee of Marianne Williamson, the spiritual teacher who popularized A Course in Miracles, the central tenet of which is that absolutely everything in life comes down to a choice between fear and love. Sound familiar? I've read Marianne Williamson's classic, A Return to Love, and I've also tried to navigate the murkier waters of ACIM. But I didn't really understand most of it until I read the Fever series. I believe we learn best through story and examples. And the Fever books are among my most cherished and effective teachers.

Often, in my most desperate moments, I fall into the perception that I have no choices. I'm sure you know what I mean:  we share our problems with a friend or counselor and they make a suggestion, or even several suggestions. And we shoot down each and every option as unrealistic or stupid or otherwise wholly undesirable. Soon, our friend slinks away, or the counselor fires us, understanding, perhaps more than we do, that nothing is going to penetrate the cocoon of negativity in which we've enveloped ourselves. We are determined to have no choices. By which determination, of course, we've made our choice. We've chosen fear, in whichever guise it's hiding—as hatred, or ignorance, or close mindedness, or extreme negativity. But any way we slice it, we've chosen the opposite of hope, life and love. Marianne would be appalled. As would Mac and KMM.

And what of ourselves?   Are we, too, disappointed and disgusted with our pansy-ass decisions? Probably, but we're so preoccupied with fear, we don't have time to hate ourselves. Or maybe we do, and that just adds to the viscous cycle of fear and loathing, in Las Vegas or anywhere else for that matter.

When I’m down I often ask myself, what would Mac do? Or Barrons? Or Dani/Jada? I figure I could do worse than make something out of nothing, even if it's the choice to meet whatever fate has in store with awareness, presence and a sense of hope above all. If I can do that, if I do that, then I've mastered the course, and validated the inordinate amount of time I spend with my nose between the pages of my favorite books.