Friday, June 27, 2014

My Biggest Fears:

I can embrace fear. Fear is relative to our perspective on whatever matter we are concerned with. I have a love/hate relationship with fear, I suppose. I adore the adrenaline rush, the almost drunken moment where we travel through our mind without brakes, screeching through the dark and tangled depths. Yet I'd rather be at peace.

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I've noticed a pretty big trend in the human population in my short 21 years aboard the eclectic ship that is planet Earth, and that is that death seems to be in the back of everyone's minds as their biggest fear.

There are philosophers, artists, authors and other creative thinkers and explorers whose life's work has been dedicated to either understanding or staunching this fear in themselves and others. As an avid reader of anything with even the slightest philosophic leaning (and a big fan of the ultimate troll, Socrates - seriously, have you read 'the apology'? That shit is hilarious, yet humbling) I feel that I've left my fears of death in a far away place.

I'm not really scared of it, I do indeed embrace the Epicurean view on death that is, well, it might be shit, but it might be okay, and also we probably won't even be able to acknowledge that it has happened to us (now let your breath out...).
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In Epicurus’s view pain is a sensory experience and death is outside the physical senses, therefore worrying about death is pointless.

It could be said that Epicurus offers the idea of comparison as the basis for our fears; comparing a non-painful state (that of everyday living) with a perceived idea of that of death; if death is a solitary state devoid of outside stimuli and one which has been given a negative stigma it may be that we look at death as though it is the pinnacle of pain – a place or state of being from which we cannot improve our state of being. 

We cannot improve our death with thinking or friendship because we will not have either of those things in death. Perhaps death, in our minds, does not allow for the inherent human need to strive. Friends will not join us and thinking will not be applicable. There is the idea of an unknowable and unprecedented state of pain or loneliness from which our fears may stem.

However these anxieties are based on the experience of life spent in human terms; Epicurus has already decreed that, in the materialist view, pain will subside with death therefore we need not concern ourselves with these worries. The anxieties we feel are more likely to do with life itself and pain felt in life. Death is outside the sensory experience of life. We can't anticipate what it will bring, it is the ultimate unknown - but what is to stop the unknown from being 'good'? Or perhaps, shock horror, simply nothing. Nothing we will experience because it won't be something we 'define'. At least not in human terms.

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So, I'm all good with death. I'm totally immune to it, it doesn't get me down that I'll die. Right? Yeah. That's right, but that does not suggest that I don't have fears.

My biggest fear is that I'll work extremely hard on something: I'll mold it to shape, stitch it up, sand it down and refine it as best I can, present it to the universe (tucking in a few crooked stitches here and there) and have someone take it completely the wrong way. Not only that, but that the thing I've created or the idea I've finalized to try and help imbue a little more openness and happiness into the world, will make someone think and feel the exact opposite. I don't want to hurt anyone, it's horrible. It's horrible to be so displaced in the world and to not know if what you're doing is right or wrong. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but the thing is if we're to have any beliefs and take any actions, we're going to displace, insult and hurt people. It's just going to happen. It might not be serious, it might not create a huge and awful butterfly effect, but it will still have happened and we all need to accept that.

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We all have our own mental filtration system; a way in which we understand the world based on our previous experiences, beliefs, understanding of language, art and everything in-between. I've spoken about this a lot with my friend (an incidentally an amazing visual artist) Bonnie. We once came up with the idea of the filtration system when discussing life, the universe and everything in between. Because of each individual filtration system, no creative person will ever truly know or understand exactly what the other is saying. No book one person lends to another will ever be exactly the same as the one read by the other person. We can't experience the exact same life as another because, unless every moment we have experienced is identical, we will take different lessons from each situation.

Over the past two years I've been writing a manuscript for a novel which attempts to understand the thin line between the life experience of two very different siblings and how they came to react to certain situations in very different ways (one violently, the other peacefully and creatively). It's a tricky niche of armchair psychology to navigate. We filter certain things out of our minds and pay close attention to other things, we're very biased we humans are. It's difficult for all of us to form an opinion, idea or even do research on a subject without imbuing the thing in front of us with some kind of bias based on our personal perception of the world around us.

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It's going to be impossible not to offend someone, especially if you want to live boldly - which I do. So, again, I return to the idea presented by Roman Krznaric in his Empathy Revolution TedXTalk that if we believe (within reason - i.e. Not in the face of evidence which points the opposite way) what we do will better the lives of those around us, then we're probably okay.

It's useless to stress too much about our fears, though. It's better to opt for a more Zen or Socratic approach to life (in my opinion at least). We (I) need to relax and think: Well when it happens it happens and I'll deal with it then. I often find that I'm kind of 'living in fear'. I'm living in a constant and cyclical effort to not offend those around me when I could just be trying to relax and be myself. I could actually be living if I wasn't holding onto all this fear. Imagine! I could be holding onto the peaceful moments, not the ridiculous dark and disorderly moments where I grip onto the roller coaster that is now residing in the past. I could be smiling the way I want to smile when I forget everything, every lesson and every mistake and laugh with loose abandon, feeling the puppet strings of the universe curving my mouth upwards while I pay no mind to my internal dialogue.

Those tiny moments of ecstasy in between thought appear fleetingly, but are sublime – they disappear the moment we attempt to define them, but if we let them be what they are, rather than what we understand them as, that Zen detachment could possibly appear.

Xo, Ellen