On fear

Fed up with resetting every clock in the household twice a year, Mig split the difference and set his clock back 30 minutes last Sunday. Since then, he has found himself trapped in a limbo half an hour off and full of technophobic pedants complaining about how everyone else partied like it was 1999 when they should have, actually, partied like it was 2000. On the other hand, he faces less traffic while commuting, he is enjoying his new powers of invisibility and no one has noticed yet at work.

Somebody said something recently that got me thinking. I forget what the hell it was they said, or even who said it, or in what context, but it had to do with fear.

Mig was saying something to someone recently about leaders controlling populations with fear, and 1984 blah blah blah, but that wasn’t it. It was somebody famous, I think.

And it was some minor, side remark they made, something mentioned in passing, nothing big, but it got me thinking as those things sometimes do.


This is what it got me thinking: I used to think life was like a battlefield in some crazy movie, bullets and ricochets everywhere while we crawl on our bellies through mud and blood and people hollering “Medic” and “Incoming” while we slither on through the mud, every second another near-miss. Every additional second we live a gift of chance that none of these visible and invisible dangers surrounding us have chanced to claim us.

And there I was, crawling away. On and on. After 47 years, I stopped for an instant, and listened.

I hope I’m not jinxing anything by saying this.

I listened and I heard nothing, no bullets whizzing. Some people yelling, okay, but where were the dangers, exactly?

They could be invisible dangers.

But I could also be making them up. Just looking at things empirically, letting go of everything else and viewing this situation empirically, one could also say: I have been here for 47 years and nothing really bad has happened, and much good.

The television says, war there, there and there. It says dead zones and economic collapse and transfats. But if I turn all that off and looks around, here in my two square meters of mud, all is well. I accept that others suffer dramatically, but that is their suffering, not mine.

I have spent 47 years in fear of the visible and invisible. Mostly the invisible. There are two possibilities: this practice has protected me from what I fear, or it has been a big waste of time.

I don’t know which, I’m still thinking about that.

7 responses to “On fear

  1. Noli timere, Mig! (or to parafrase Bart S: Don’t have a cow, man). No need to feel apocaplectic :) (remember: http://metamorphosism.com/archives/000030.html)

    I was already trying to invent a new kind of phobia but couldn’t think of anything other than timeophobia, which is not very inventive.

  2. Maybe you don’t hear bullets whizzing overhead because now they’re using lasers.

  3. mig

    And microwave death rays. And low-frequency theremins, to cause nausea.

  4. D

    I have always maintained that it is my paranoia that keeps me alive.

  5. How apt that I should have just read this quote earlier today. I think it describes what you’re talking about quite nicely.

    Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.

    &mdash Will Durant

  6. This is simply great. Great writing. It so perfectly captures my general feeling of panic.

    One time, somebody told me I was mellow. I couldn’t believe it. Is it not evident that I’m simply one step below absolutely losing my shit from sheer terror and panic? How does one function as “head of household” in such a state? I’ll never know.

  7. you’re almost a poet, mig!