Tag Archive: fear


 

End of the world

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It is night.  Roving light in red and green filters through the cracks in my bedroom curtains, making me stir.  The colours play over my eyelids; I turn, semi-conscious, onto my side and feel my sweat-soaked hair cool and wet against my forehead.

I open my eyes.

For a long moment my brain works to interpret the play of prismatic light that pierces the humid darkness.  It can’t work it out: what could be green, shining through my curtains, and what could be red, in the middle of the night…?

First my right leg, then my left swings out from under the duvet.  My hypersensitive feet touch the gnarl of the old carpet; I flex my toes.  Then, walking towards the window with rainbow hues dancing an aurora on my bare chest, I breathe deeply with a twitch of anxiety between my lungs.

I open the curtains.  I feel my eyes strain in their sockets.  On the other side of the grimy glass the back garden is illuminated like a surrealist’s mixing palette: a low forest of herbs, the rough corners of a boundary hedge, and a garden shed with windows reflecting the celestial drama high above:

The sky is full of light and colour.  Where usually I would see only a smattering of pale, twinkling stars, I see now an immense array of pinks and greens, swirling across the heavens in thick gaseous swathes.  A centrepiece is the moon, but it is broken: shattered into a genuine crescent with splinters of pale rock still lingering in the primary orb’s diminished gravity. 

Dominating the sky is a half-risen planet, its diameter spanning the width of the horizon, a purplish-brown bloated monster.  It looms, surrounded by wisps of galactic mist and those meteoroids unfortunate enough to get caught in its massive fields yet lucky enough to survive, locked in endless complicated orbits.  Diaphanous swipes of frozen space-ice form broken rings around this fearsome dome, with stars shining through the thinner ribbons from behind.   This planet seems close enough to reach out and touch.

All around, broken pieces of shattered asteroids and distant moons plummet through the atmosphere.  They burn with low, scraping rumbles, the sound of massive engines.  As the scorched segments break up in the intense crucible of light and heat they flare up suddenly in blinding displays of orange and white.

It is the end of the world.  The universe has slipped into a jumbled chaos, drawn into itself, and the effects of this cataclysm are evident in the unravelling atmosphere of Earth that disappears from the stratosphere into cold space, letting in the biting teeth of frozen vacuum.   

I see all this from my bedroom window, and observe the microscopic fragments of human civilization rushing upward through the sucking tear in the atmosphere. 

The devastation sweeps closer, and the gargantuan planet grows larger as though on a collision course with our barely significant planet, and all is dwarfed by its relentless approach: heat and colour and the bass trembling of objects much larger than I colliding in boundless space.

So what has me thinking about fear this week? 

Is it because a few nights of heavy sleeping have brought on nightmares, in which fear is unconquerable; or that because there are going to be some big changes and challenges in my life over the next year?

I’ve always taken a certain approach toward fear: tackle it head-on.  All those years of kid’s fiction, comic books and video games have taught me something.  Run away from fear and you’ll be running forever, but kick it in the nuts and you’re gold.

It’s not always easy, obviously. 

          pho-bi-a

          noun

          a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

If you could talk yourself out of it, you wouldn’t be afraid.  But fear is one of the biggest obstacles to happiness: fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of what people will think of us, fear of failure.  These fears stop us from having new experiences, discovering new places and new parts of ourselves, and worst of all, from trying.

I have never blamed a person for being afraid of anything.  But I lose patience with a person who doesn’t try to master their fear.  Successful or not, that is a respectable thing.  It is the definition of bravery. 

Case in point.  My girlfriend has everything going for her: she is beautiful, brainy, stylish and ambitious.  And yet, if a house spider materialises in the middle of the lounge, she freezes up.  Her fear is literally paralysing. 

Some people aren’t afraid of spiders.  I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with them myself, but I can snatch one up in a piece of kitchen roll if I have to and wash it down the sink if I have to. 

Nasty murderous giant that I am. 

There’ve been enough studies into why we have this irrational fear of such harmless, tiny things.  I presume most people agree that it’s an evolutionary throwback to when we were apes wandering through the lush forests of our deep past.  Those curious chimps who dared poke a venomous spider may not have survived to breed; those sensible or fortunate enough to stay away passed on some genetic predisposition toward creepy crawlies and this fear allowed the survival of their DNA to present day.

But we’re smarter than chimps (albeit marginally, natch) – so why can’t our rational minds defeat the notion that this spindly thing skittering against the side of the bath is something to be terrified of?

Fair enough, I live in the UK, comfortably far away from black widows, redbacks and camel spiders.  I’ve little to be afraid of (although there are a good dozen species in the UK capable of painful, poisonous bites). 

I can live with the little creatures if I have to, and my relatively shallow fear means that I can tackle them without acts of great bravery.  And yet to my girlfriend, whose fear is close to absolute, successfully capturing and releasing a spidery is supremely brave.   And capture it she did, setting the little blighter free in the driving rain of our front yard.

To her, the spider was two feet wide, with slashing palps and mandibles dripping with toxic venom, its bloated abdomen bristling with hair.  It was capable of leaping onto her face.  It was capable of 0-30 mph in about a second.  And it was most definitely a sadistic, predatory monster that would have taken great joy in sinking its fangs into her vulnerable flesh.

Fighting that takes bravery.  It has prompted me to tackle the fears, and to ask you to tackle yours.

Face them head on, don’t let them have any power over you, and post your success stories (however small) here on this board for your Bravery Points.

—dbx