Primal Fear

Primal Fear

There are certain things we fear, about which there is nothing we can do. Although we may put a brave face upon these fears and even smile in the face of them – perhaps because we feel that we are the masters of our own lives and destinies, or maybe through a personal or learned faith in something other than ourselves or fate – the fact remains that when stood in the face of those primal fears that control us at a far deeper level than our conscious emotion we cannot help but feel a vicarious chill in the very essence of our being.

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We may profess to to be above those most basic of fears… death, sickness, pain, the unknown, the dark and the lurking horror of that which is beyond our understanding in the dark recesses of the unknown but, the truth is, they control us.

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Our greatest fears may be those that hide behind the veneer of what is ‘normal’… those hidden practices and half-believed tales that lurk in the dark recesses of primal memory: ghosts, ghouls, hobgoblins, things that go bump in the night and the monster under the bed. Petty children’s fears maybe, but all too real in an unfamiliar place in the dark of the night, with only our thoughts and the sound of the windows rattling for company.

And at the witching hour, who among us is truly unafraid of what may lurk in wait for us?

Now it is the time of night
That the graves all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide
(Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Night and darkness- bringing unfamiliar threats to a familiar scene. Sounds are amplified and assault our heightened senses, the gnawing assertion that some ‘thing’ is behind us, watching with pale eyes as we stumble and fall…

…and, spawned of the darkness of the grave, our own mortality holds sway over us. Much as we feign indifference to the reaper’s scythe, when faced with the reality of that final death rattle, whether our own or that of one close to us, how many can truly look glibly into the face of the void and smile?

The liberating thing about death
Is in its fairness to women
its acceptance of blacks,
its special consideration
for the sick.
And I like the way
that children aren’t excluded.
‘Death Lib – Steve Turner’

And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time. (Jack Kerouac)

Death is ultimately the most liberating of experiences – it sets us free of any ties, but at what price? He is not the ‘Grim’ Reaper for nothing.

And what could bring greater fear than death?… why, life, of course – life with its arsenal of macabre pleasures: pain, disfigurement, sickness and turmoil. The exquisite pain of broken bones and burning flesh…

…and the unspeakable beastliness of the surgical procedure – the clinical brutality of scalpel against yielding flesh, the visceral horror of organs removed, weighed and dumped… just meat for the incinerator.

“People are obscenities. Would rather be music than be a mass of tubes squeezing semisolids around itself for a few decades before becoming so dribblesome it’ll no longer function.”
David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)

Then there are the contrived fears: the ones we make up to scare our children… or ourselves. The monster under the bed, the clown with the razor blades, the slashing knife and the spinning head. The normal, everyday things we choose to turn into monsters…

“I hardly think a few birds are going to bring about the end of the world.”
(Hitchcock – The Birds)

But why stop there? We so love to scare ourselves silly: so we build a higher, faster rollercoaster; we embellish the ancient stories of our past and we create new, intangible -yet so real – fears.

“You asked me once,” said O’Brien, “what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”
George Orwell – 1984

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