The uprisings in Cairo have the world in thrall. How is it that people can live for decades in fear, and then suddenly take to the streets, defying soldiers and tanks? On the news last night an Egyptian man said, “Even if the army kills us, we are not afraid anymore.”
That moment when fear loses its grip—that’s the magic moment. Reminds me of an entry in E.B. White’s journal, One Man’s Meat, written while he was living in Maine.
A friend of mine has an electric fence around a piece of his land, and he keeps two cows there. I asked him one day how he liked his fence and whether it cost much to operate. “Doesn’t cost a damn thing,” he replied. “As soon as the battery ran down I unhooked it and never put it back. That strand of fence is as dead as a piece of string, but the cows don’t go within ten feet of it. They learned their lesson the first few days.”
Apparently this state of affairs is general throughout the United States. Thousands of cows are living in fear of a strand of wire that no longer has the power to confine them. Freedom is theirs for the asking. Rise up, cows! Take your liberty while despots snore. And rise up too, all people in bondage everywhere! The wire is dead, the trick is exhausted. Come on out!
Let’s go to school on the Egyptians. What old fears still confine us? Overbearing people, scenes of old failures, memories of being punished for stepping out—being who we are. What if we knew the strand of wire was dead as a piece of string? What would we do? How would we live?