Mister Fear-All and Mister Nothing-to-Fear

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Written By Johanne Bernard

Johanne is a scriptwriter for cinema and television, and author of books for youth. She has been practicing Buddhist meditation and Dzogchen for more than ten years.

Blog | Dzogchen philosophy | Mind and Dzogchen

In this article “Mister Fear-All and Mister Nothing-to-Fear”, Johanne tells us a story about karmic tendances, fishes… and primordial ocean.

Mister Fear-All and Mister Nothing-to-Fear

The ocean, immense… and just above, a dark sky, where the clouds pile up. The wind blows harder and harder. On the surface of the water, the waves stir: a storm is coming.

Lost in the immensity of the ocean, a small boat, like a walnut shell, sails through the waves as best it can.

Standing at the bow of the boat, Mr Fear-All and Mr Nothing-to-Fear, who are off on a cruise, scan the increasingly dark horizon. A bolt of lightning thunders in the distance. “We have to turn back, the boat will never make it”, says Mr Fear-All. “The storm will pass, we just have to wait. Nothing will happen to us, we’ve seen it all before…”, replies Mr Nothing-to-Fear. “Everything is impermanent. Anything can happen”, argues Mr Fear-All. “It’s all an illusion, what does it matter.”, retorts Mr Nothing-to-Fear.

“… they all experience for the first time the same, unique thing: the momentary cessation of the illusion of themselves.” 

A second bolt of lightning ripped through the sky, striking just a few feet from the boat’s hull. Under the impact wave, a crack appeared in the wood. Seeing the water seeping into the crack, Mr Fear-All panics: “This is it, this is the end!”. As he rushes to fill the crack, he stumbles and, in his fall, makes the hole even bigger. Mr Nothing-to-Fear shakes his head in dismay, then returns to his sky-watching, making a clever calculation to determine how much longer the storm will last, even though he is so sure it will end soon. Mr Fear-All, watching the water rise and trying to save himself with the means at hand, thinks of his loved ones. Maybe he’ll never see them again! Mr Nothing-to-Fear, quite annoyed, repeats “Everything that appears disappears anyway” and then, in front of Mr Fear-All who is crying, gets angry this time: “Since I’m telling you that the storm is going to pass!”.

“Desire-attachment and anger-aversion amount to the same thing, since they are both manifestations of the same nature,” says Mrs Know-it-All, suddenly emerging from the hold of the boat. “You’re both the same!” “How do you know?” says Mrs Know-Nothing, emerging behind her: “Only direct knowledge is valid, everything else is ignorance”…

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Caught up in their conversations, arguing against each other, nobody notices that the boat is slowly sinking… The storm calms down, temporarily, but with water up to his nose, Mr Nothing-to-Fear can no longer take pride in it, nor can Mr Fear-All retort…

In the ocean, a shoal of fish sees the little group struggling to stay afloat, clinging to each other, and arguing about how to survive now…

“Too bad, they could have learned to swim,” says the youngest fish.

“They just don’t know their true nature,” replies his mate.

“Yes, but to know it, you have to experience it,” adds a third.

The small group, still bobbing and sinking inexorably in the water, passed the shoal of fish and heard them talking. Stunned, they all freeze, suddenly ceasing all mental commentary. In that instant of astonishment, where desire-attachment, anger-aversion and ignorance all meet at their base, they all experience for the first time the same, unique thing: the momentary cessation of the illusion of themselves. Falling silent, they contemplate in unison their true nature, the primordial ocean… Then, without even realizing it, they begin to swim.

“It’s never too late to take the bath of Great Perfection…” concludes the oldest fish, turning to the youngest with a big smile.


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