What is fear for?

21 Oct 2004
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United Kingdom
I've been away, briefly, and doing some idle pondering, and I asked myself this question.

It started me thinking when staring into a seemingly bottomless main sewer inspection chamber, trying to work out the path of a drain run. Because I was on my own, and a wary of the lid slamming on me and nobody knowing I was there, I resisted the temptation to climb down and rod upstream. That isn't the way I want to check out of this life.

I'd like to 'share' some thoughts, in the hope that they might mean something to someone - a quick distraction from rising damp, falling wet, penetrating soakings, professionals and unprofessionals, regulations, sanitation, titillation and provocation. A (hopefully) humble interlude.

Sometimes fear is a nuisance - it can be irrational, petty, misplaced, or just overwhelmingly wrong. Fear of failure, fear of looking a dork, fear of rejection - a very normal, but not always very constructive, emotion. Generally, being scared is A Good Thing. It prevents us from prematurely running headlong towards the edge of our human abilities and hurling ourselves off with what, innocently, used to be called gay abandon. It screams at the pratt we each have inside, that one that seeks a cheap thrill from going too high, too deep, or too fast, that would otherwise play fast and loose with our own and with other peoples lives. To ignore it is mortal, to completely shut it out is, quite frequently, fatal.

But many of us have pet fears - ones that have become a comfort, or provide a familiar place in which to hide when things get too much. I used to be petrified of heights. I was, in a word, phobic. And you know what they say about phobias? My way of facing it was abseiling. We came, we saw, we whimpered.

This wouldn't be scary to someone who can spend 2 hours, 22 floors up, waiting, staring, unblinking, on the clearest spring day imaginable (a day on which, by the way, you could convince yourself that you could see the waves being transmitted from Alexander Palace, and, in another unmentionable direction, count the cracks in the paving stones in New Oxford Street). Nor if you could gaze romantically across a metropolis littered with so many other buildings that relatively, and obstinately, WERE SO VERY SHORT INDEED - humble, unassuming structures that cry out for a quiet, graceful, sponsored and suspended fall from rooftops carefully adorned with safe looking, and LOW, parapets.

To successfully convince people that you consider it easy, and that you hadn't just dictated your last will and testament to your family solicitor on the mobile phone clutched to your chest with white knuckled terror before it was wrestled out of your blood-starved and exhausted fingers during the pre-descent briefing, you'd have to be someone who oozes the kind of self-confidence that is the sole preserve of the youthful, the drug-crazed and the Prime Minister.

More specifically, you'd have to be someone with a will so strong that it doesn't hear those misconceived and risible danger screams issued by, hello?, reality?, as a signal of the dangers stretching out literally 400 feet downwards. Vertically. Downwards. You'd need to have returned from The Forbidden Planet having beaten the Krells in the 2007 galactic final of the "Create An Invincible Monster Whilst Asleep" tournament. You'd need to possess the boisterous and assailable certainty that sheer stupidity can manifest an invisible anti-Newtonian force field with the restitution of a brand new space-hopper that your Dad just fully inflated at the local garage. You'd need to be the kind of character who believes that a pavement moving at around 50mph upwards can be kept at a safe distance without any real effort, much in the way that a large sixth-former would keep a threshing first-year out of punching range effortlessly and simply by virtue of relative arm length and some brief primary school arithmetic. In short, abseiling is something at which Wile E. Coyote would excel.

But I digress (which is a cliché that I've always wanted to use but never dared; and will never dare again). I think you've got the drift by now. After waiting what seemed like forever, the moment of truth arrived far too soon.

Oh - as a final pre-launch observation, and to harp back to my new-found understanding of the importance of parapets, I should mention, just in case you've never stood at the top of Centre Point, that there are no right-angles - no "safe" (I use the term relatively, obviously), abseiling platforms on which to stand before letting the rope take the strain. Instead, representing what must have been a career limiting choice for the architect of the time, there are very bizarre, and very rough, cast concrete pyramids that lend themselves to being stepped off easily in the way that the Queen Mary II cruise ship could be 'easily' driven onto a car ramp for a quick chassis inspection. The words "now just shuffle your bum off into mid air and follow me down" will haunt me at every cliff edge I ever see again. I mean, when you cut yourself with a razor blade it doesn't actually make it one atom less sharp, does it now?

Anyway, the rest wrote itself. The point is that having done it once, I could do it again. And again, and again, and still maintain a healthy respect for heights. That was it for me - the main one conquered. Or so I thought.

If you're still reading this, you're probably wondering: why this, and why now? Well it's only now that I've come to realise the thing I'm most scared of, which is not existing. Or, to be more precise, coming to the end of my existence. I'm not unique in this, obviously, and I'm sure everyone ponders it from time to time, but as the years roll by I'm guessing most people tend to do it with a little less levity and a sense of there not being enough time left, of having been a weeny bit careless with quite a few of those thousands of millions of seconds.

The Internet is all very well - it's a vast learning and information resource - but sometimes it can take the place of real life without giving very much back for the time invested. Getting over the fear of death has become my new ambition, instead of pretending it's not necessary, because, for most people, there's no safety talk, no expert guidance, no soft landing on a friendly pavement, and no chance to do it all over again.

If you made it this far, thanks for listening. Live long and prosper.

Oh, and if you skipped straight to the end out of sheer boredom, just be grateful that I didn't tell the story of how I couldn't find my car afterwards, having forgotten where I'd parked it.
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I think I've just developed an irrational fear of your 20,000th post.
Fear is most often rational and protective.

Phobia is most often irrational and can be destructive.

But a phobia may have developed from an original rational fear taht was ignored and harm occurred.

There is a "sixth sense", the result of sub-conscious appraisal of the situation, that warns us of danger without actually telling us what the danger is. This warning can be a sense of un-ease about something or sheer fear of the unknown.

As our sub-conscious provides no clear information to explain why it is issuing the warning we often act rationally and ignore the sense of un-ease that is the warning.

I've come to realise the thing I'm most scared of, which is not existing

As long as you leave enough evidence of your existance to remain in the memories of friends you never cease to exist. It is just that you are not around to see the memories of you.

My worry is about life after death. I do not believe in life after death and frequently discuss it with those who do. My worry is that if I am right then I cannot after death prove I am right. But if they are right and there is life after death then they will be able to prove to me that they were right.
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Someone once said .."believing something is right does not mean it is right" ;)
not so sure about the rest of the diatribe Softus, but i liked the references to the old sci-fi movies.

spot on. ;)

how far up do you think you could lift the Krell i.q. test Softus?

p.s live long and prosper.

I think about death a lot, and have done ever since becoming a parent. I suspect many people do.

But, as my mother says, "Die? It'll be the last thing I do!"
or as one yokel said to another, in the pub ,upon hearing the death of a friend............."well that`s the first time `ees done that" :eek:
I don't have a fear of height, I have a fear of the floor rushing up to meet me at speed.. ( falling )..
as long as I know that I am standing on something solid that can suport my not unconsiderable weight, then I'm fine..

I tried abseiling but the rope stretched a lot when leaning out over the edge which soon had me scrambling back onto solid ground with a handfull of the saftey line mans jacket clettched firmly in one hand..
Hello All,
Believe this if you will,
In my somewhat turbulent past :LOL: I once found myself trapped in a car being driven out of my 'resort' town where I had been causing some trouble. After being clumped a few times by the local police officers one of them took his gun and pointed it at my head :eek: and told me that they could easily shoot me and leave me to die. They then took my cash , not watch or anything else and told me to run. Now I have experienced adrenaline rushes in the past but since that night I know that there is such a thing as being scared stiff. I could not get my legs to move and ended up getting quite a slap for 'hanging around' ! Served me right I know.

The butterfly/adrenaline rushes that you can feel when there is a mass set to in the pub etc are nothing in comparison.
Something tells me you aint got much work on Soft... ;)

I have some strange fears..losing someone close to me tops the list I spose.

Fear of the dark, silly eh..

I was talking to an old customer a while back, a born again..lovley non pushy people....got to speak about their view of evil and he mentioned a few experiences he'd had confronting it.

He found it strange that I had no fear of 'evil' as such..im a non beleiver..so to me if god doesnt exist.nor does the devil or any other form of evil.

I feel a lot of fear is based on a lack of understanding of the subject in hand.

great piece btw Soft...a good read.
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