The Trick Is Not to Mind the Fear


My mother’s favorite movie is Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this film a child. Despite the fact that it’s rather long (3 hrs 42 min), there are only two things I remember about this movie. But I remember them well.

The first is Lawerence toward the end, dressed in white, weilding a knife, covered in other people’s blood, his piecing blue eyes wide with maniacal glee after he’s just slaughtered countless people. I was 6 or maybe 7 at the time and I suppose this was a bit traumatizing.

My other vivid memory is right at the beginning, when he’s still a sane English officer. He lights a match and holds it up, watching the flame work its way down to his fingers until it slowly goes out. The whole time, even toward the end when the flame is clearly burning his fingertips, he looks completely calm.

Someone asks him how he does it. “What’s the trick?” they want to know.

"The trick," he says, cool as you please, "is not to mind the pain."

Anyone in any sort of artistic endeavour they really care about feels fear. It’s an inevitable, perhaps even necessary part of the process. People always seem to want to get rid of the fear or hush it up or ignore it somehow. I get that. I really do.

But honestly, the trick is not to mind the fear.