On a Florida vacation in my youth I bought one of those coconut heads. You know the ones with shells for ears, funny nose, and sunken eyes. What can you really do with one of those things but look at it every once in a while? So pretty soon I put it away in my closet.
I’ll never forget the first time I went to bed with that closet door accidentally open. Tossing and turning, as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I looked out from the covers and saw it. The coconut head sitting mute, staring at me. I was frozen with fear; it was moving, the eyes were watching me. What could I do? I tried closing my eyes and talking myself out of it- just ignore it, go back to sleep. HAH! No way. So I opted to run quickly and flick my bedroom lamp on, bathing the room in light. Then I ran to the closet with my eyes closed, and slammed the door. It worked! I was saved from the head’s dark power.
I thought for some reason, as a grown up I would lose those gut-wrenching fears. But we all still have them. We continue to be afraid of the dark, those unknowns in our life – what if our partner left us or we lost our job or our kid is on drugs or we get cancer or there is a war. Certainly these are real things to be concerned about. But I think that overwhelming, all-consuming fear originates from a much deeper place- the fear of our own death. We just develop just slightly more sophisticated coping techniques than slamming the closet door.
For example in my family of origin there is no coconut head, in fact there is not even a coconut tree and we never even went to Florida. Other people cope by using the bright light of logic to illuminate the head entirely and rationally drive all the dark places away with intellect. Many others turn to religion for solace.
I have tried the first two and neither works well for long. To deal with that coconut head in the closet I have to look out from the covers and admit that I am afraid. I have to learn to sit in that place of fear with my heart and my eyes wide open. Maybe then I will be a little more ready for my own death.
This Michael Ellis with a Perspective.