Fear Tuesday January 31, 2006, 3 comments

For reasons I have not fully explored yet, I have recently spent a lot of time considering the nature of fear. While I certainly do not claim to belong in the same sentence, let alone the same league as them, some of the greatest minds of our history have contemplated the nature of fear. The only thing to fear, it is said, is fear itself. What a fascinating statement.

On a purely biological level, fear is a tool we use to protect ourselves from dangerous situations. It’s like a short circuit past our rational faculties to some sort of primordial evasive action system. It gets our thoughts out of our way so we can concentrate on getting safe.

Since much of the human struggle is involved with making things safe on the physical level, this short-circuit has become a bit of a liability for most people in most situations. What is more disturbing is that it has been bent by centuries of education to become a fear of the unknown. We have been taught that the unknown is dangerous, and therefore undesirable. We celebrate those who stand in the face of the unknown and shine a light into its depths, but inwardly we shudder and thank the powers that its not us.

For me, there’s only one true unknown, and that’s death. The great adventure, its sometimes called. Others have called it the Beginning, and still others the End. What everyone acknowledges is that it is unknown and will remain so forever. The ultimate unknown. The ultimate thing to fear.

But fear is the only thing to fear, remember? I’ve been lost in this spiral, looking for a tangent and a way out, and I’ve found one. No matter what happens, and no matter how hard science tries, death is inevitable. That means the unknown is inevitable – fear is inevitable.

Blow that. I refuse to live my life in fear.

I refuse to subscribe to theological tenets which I see as wrong simply in hopes that it might mitigate some post-death situation. I refuse to believe in a deity that is admittedly jealous and vengeful. I refuse to believe any god would require me to be so subservient to his will. And if it does, then maybe I don’t want to spend the afterlife with it anyway.

I also refuse to live in that much more basic fear, the fear of my life. I will not let a fear of bodily harm stop me from doing things I feel are worthwhile or meaningful. I will not let a fear of harm stop me from sailing around the world. After all, if I die and there’s nothing, then I’ll be dead and won’t care. And if there is something? I was looking for the great adventure anyway, wasn’t I?

The point of all this is that fear of the unknown is, when you spend some time thinking about it, ridiculous. The wise men said it best.

There is nothing to fear.


Jorge Tuesday January 31, 2006

Do you not fear the loss of a loved one?

Fear is something that can never be fully removed from one’s life I think.

Perhaps at some rare moments, we can abolish it.
But it creeps back.

The key is to acknowledge it, like an in-law that you don’t like.

Jeff Tuesday January 31, 2006

Dude as I was reading this one thing for some reason came into my head. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Its a quote from Dune by Frank Herbert which is actually quite religious but very worthwhile.

Daniel Wednesday February 1, 2006

There’s plenty of literature on the subject, I’m sure, none of which I’ve ever read; but it seems most reasonable that fear is trapped in our genes, is baked into the emergent patterns of our neural pathways. Prejudice, for that matter, is, too, though you can disentangle it from political considerations by calling it “pattern recognition”.

That said, there’s nothing that says you can’t choose to act reasonably in the face of fear. That’s what courage is, if movies are to be believed: the act of carrying on in the face of fear. Just as with prejudice, we can’t escape its presence; but we do have a choice to ignore its counsel. As long as there aren’t any zombies.

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