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The On Being Project

What Can Fear Teach Us About Love? Hanan Harchol’s Animated Short

What Can Fear Teach Us About Love? Hanan Harchol’s Animated Short

In this third installment of Hanan Harchol‘s Love & Fear trilogy, one of our favorite animators and interpreters of Jewish thought pairs two emotions (fear and love) in a surprising way. The characters explore fear as a complicated issue. It can paralyze you, but it can also motivate and focus your life; it is not only connected to, but necessary for, finding real love — not just among other people but also with God.
Of all of Harchol’s videos that we’ve featured, this one may be the most challenging to get one’s head around since “fear” is often perceived in a negative light. But Jewish teachings support this idea of an edifying possibility for fear, and it’s role in love.
As his mother’s character says:

“Real love needs to be created, in the space between the two people without the ego. That space between the two people is the unknown, the uncertainty, the otherness…the fear. If we embrace the fear as an opportunity to discover something deeper… something more meaningful… then… fear can become a catalyst to grow beyond ourselves, … and it is in that space beyond ourselves, …without ego, where we can ultimately find our true selves, where can find meaning, and where real love exists!”

There is also an important role for trust in navigating love and fear. She calls out a biblical verse from Job (11:18):

“Letting go of the ego and embracing fear is possibly the most difficult thing a person can do. But, if one chooses to do it, if you choose to trust because there is hope, then your choice gives meaning to the idea of Echad.”

The Hebrew word “Echad” has a few mystical meanings, and (*semi-spoiler alert*) the final line alluding back to it feels like encountering a Zen koan — I may not understand it, but I know something wise when I hear it.

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