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Creating and Fear : Page 2 of 2

Creating and Fear

continued from page 1

The great legacy of John Adams, second president of the United States, includes a dark chapter of his Federalist Party rule. Fearing the rising influence of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party, he signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts of date 1798. The acts severely limited civil liberties — providing unlimited powers of deportation, and criminalizing anyone who publicly criticized the federal government. In contravention of the First Amendment, many newspaper editors and others (including a congressman) were imprisoned for several years and fined thousands of dollars. Federalists defended the acts as intended to protect the United States from alien citizens of enemy powers (Britain and France) and to stop rebellious attacks from weakening the government. But historians — as many citizens of the time — have claimed the acts unconstitutional, and designed to repress criticism of the Adam's administration. The documentary went on to note other mishaps of intervening years — Roosevelt's internment in the 1940s of Japanese Americans in the wake of Pearl Harbor; McCarthyism in reaction to Communism in the 1950s; and Nixon's Watergate of the 1970s — to name a few.

Escape would not oblige. Instead, I found myself headlong into to the dark side of creating — a theme we experience along broad global lines, and along the seams of our daily lives.

How can we keep fear from steering our creative process down hazardous slopes? This question could likely be answered in many competent ways, and correctly. But one key phrase keeps jumping to mind: action vs. reaction. In reaction, fear has taken the lead. Worse, the anatomy of our fear eludes us, so true understanding of our position as it relates to the situation is lacking. Thus, reactive fear and opposition build. In reaction, fate might smile to create a positive outcome, but we increase the odds that it won't. In action, on the other hand, we reflect enough to ease the fear into the back seat. We explore the anatomy of our fear and understand our true position as it relates to the situation. Action, fueled by understanding, reduces fear and opposition. In action, fate may operate to create disappointment, but we increase the odds that it won't. With time, patience and genuine understanding, our actions will produce positive results.

It's unsettling to visit creative abuses of American power. But to recognize that our founders intended these sad reflections is deeply moving. In writing our constitution, the framers incorporated wisdom gained from the flames of their European history. They knew all too well the scorched earth left in the wake of tyrants. Their masterpiece endures, providing us with freedom to check our intentions and, most importantly, the freedom to correct ourselves. In the coming weeks and years, my hope is that we will all grapple with this question of fear as it relates to our personal creative lives, and in the creative life of our country as a whole. •

© 2008 Barbara Bowen. All rights reserved.

Barbara BowenBarbara Bowen owns Gateways Coaching and helps artists and other professionals to master the creative process, build momentum, and take sensible risks to move careers to the next level. More »

9/19/08