Just over a decade ago a conversation about fear-based motivations in relationships sparked some extended and seriously fruitful reflection about hopeful versus fearful postures toward others. The beginning of this NYT article about Marilynne Robinson, whose new novel is just out, brought much of that back to me.
This June, as a grandfather clock rang the quarter-hour in her modest Iowa City living room, the American novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, a woman of 70 who speaks in sentences that accumulate into polished paragraphs, made a confession: “I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny.’ ”
“ ‘So I shot him,’ ” I said.
“ ‘Can you blame me?’ ”
‘‘Exactly. Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.