We all have those things, moments and images, that will always be scary to us. Early encounters with the surreal and horrifying make us what we are as adults. The beginnings of fear, early fear, pre-fear, when you first realized that as a human being you are allowed to know that something wasn’t right. That stuff sticks with you.
As a parent now, I have begun to see it in my four year old. Concerns of death, of “Bad Guys”, of thunderstorms, and of being alone are all beginning to creep into her mind. Certainly, some of her fears, such as the inevitable return of dinosaurs to the land of the living, are unfounded. But it doesn’t make them any less scary, does it?
Fear denys our reality around us. It asks “what if?” and allows our mind to run with that ball. It’s the dark side of being a creative and intelligent human. With knowledge comes, unfortunately, what we don’t know. And that is scary.
When I was a kid, I knew about being scared. I was deep into the idea of nuclear armageddon. I have this image in my head of some literature that a roving proselytizer left on our doorstep once. It was cartoons, paneled and illustrated with lively colors, clearly attractive to the eyes of young and moldable minds. Its candy coated exterior was a veneer, however. Inside, the illustrations told the story of the end of the world. Families were broken, there was flame coming from the sky. It was a cartoon ending of the world.
I can still remember those images in my head, 30 years later. I could probably draw some of the pictures from memory. And I remember the nightmares I had afterward. Fears of my religious comeuppance combined with the normal fears of a child of the 80’s, and the Russians became the angels of death. Those dreams, of a sacred nuclear ending to everything, are the first visual remembrance I have of fear. I remember fear, and how it felt. Like anything, your first time leaves an impression.
Nowadays, my fears are a lot more realistic. I still haven’t crossed off nuclear winter, but it has made it’s way down on the list, it’s position as “top thing to be afraid of” constantly being one-upped by new, more terrifying things.
Yet fear is so genuine and primal that I can’t help but love it. Not the actual throes of real life genuine anxiety, but the flights of fancy that the children in our lives, and those who still live in our heads, can take. Fear is perhaps the most creative and fantastic of all emotions. And I love it. I love being scared.
I hope you remember that, and get scared this October. It’s good for you.