Monday, June 18, 2012

Living in Fear, or Why a Young Man Died on the Tracks

I never met Tom Maynard. I never even saw him in person. What I know of this incredible young cricket talent is what I learned from his Wikipedia entry, and from Mark Church’s descriptions of his play. I don’t even know the exact circumstances of his death, or of the hours leading up to that fateful moment on the tracks of the London Underground.

But I do l know one thing: Tom Maynard was afraid. The question is, afraid of what?

It has been reported in the media that Maynard had earlier been pulled over by police for driving “erratically,” and that he had fled his car on foot. An hour later he lay dead. The erratic driving will lead to the charge that he was driving while under the influence of alcohol. Time will tell on that point.

But whatever the cause, Maynard bolted like a terrified and untested batsman leaping from crease without even thinking that there is no run to be had, simply because the flight instinct has taken over.
How many similar accidents, injuries and deaths have we read about with a shake of the head and the thought “Well that’s a shame?” Celebrities. Sporting heroes. Regular folks. All running blindly from sheer fright. Again, why?

Fear is a subject in which I can claim some knowledge. I suffer from a strange and painful habit of suddenly seeing myself on my deathbed, feeling the lonely steps of Death’s approach, watching the blackness take hold as my eyes close. On such occasions I tend to leap up and shout something like “God help me,” or, if the attack is less severe, simply kick out with my legs, wave my arms and shake my head. These are all automatic reactions—I can’t stop myself from doing these things, any more than I seem to be able to stop my attacks. I run. I run from death. I run from the pressures of taking care of a family in tough economic times. I run from the fear of not being able to provide for the daughter I love. I run from the fear that she will never be any closer to me than she is now because I am legally her step-father. I run from fear of failure. I fear judgment.

A few years ago my house was hit by a drunken driver. A young kid—no more than 17 or 18—lost control and wound up threading between trees on the property and bashing one corner of my home. It was about one o’clock in the morning, so it took me a few seconds to get downstairs and to the front door. The young man was long gone … he had abandoned his smashed-up car and run away on foot. He had been so frightened that he had forgotten that there was nowhere to run. His car, complete with registration and fingerprints, was still behind, and in the hands of the police within minutes. Yet still he ran. He ran from trouble with his parents, possible jail time, and a darkening future once bright with possibilities. He ran from the awfulness of his mistake. He feared judgment.
Remember Princess Diana? Careening madly with Dodi Fayed through the early morning streets of Paris, pursued by the paparazzi? She ran from fear and tiredness. Fear of yet more pictures being published with misleading angles and captions. Fear of yet another moment lost to a lack of privacy. Fear of letting down any of the millions of people who loved her. She feared judgment.

And what did Tom Maynard fear? He feared everything I’ve just mentioned. He feared the loss of opportunity. He feared the loss of the only life he held dear. He feared the end of his world. Perhaps he too feared judgment.

Whose judgment?



His own.

In a way, Tom Maynard, like Princess Diana, the young drunk driver and countless others, was running from all of us. Pressure to be perfect. Because we are imperfect. Pressure to be talented. Because we lack talent. Pressure of people wanting to know the details of a public person’s life. Because we so hate our own lives. The pressure of approaching judgment. Because we fear so judgment.

Perhaps no more fitting tribute to Maynard could be found than to think on that. Why was he afraid? Why did he run away? And to think about what can be done to make sure this stops happening.

In a world of constant pressure to do it right, not let anyone down, do everything for everybody so you can keep your world together and turning for those you love, perhaps each of us should ask the question: Why do we want to make each other live with this fear? Because when you live in fear, it becomes a habit and it begins to color your every move. Like a batsman at the crease who fears the fast bowler’s high bouncer, one can never live a full and productive life if one’s only thoughts are papered over with the blackness of fear. The old saying about a coward living a thousand deaths is true and very appropriate to the modern life.

Should Maynard have been afraid? Had he done something wrong? I cannot say. I cannot judge. All I can do is see another human being, full of love and hate and promise and talent and faults and fear. And mourn.

For him.

For me.

For the whole damned thing.

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