What do we fear the most? Our deaths? American culture is enraptured with the idea of dying in our popular entertainment and religious cultural memes. Today is Friday the 13th and that means — to many people — that today is an unlucky day, a foreboding moment in time, a chance for the terror within us to strike out in the dark to wound those surrounding us.
Do we seek out the irrational in life to jar us out of our sad, somnambulistic, existence?
What happens during the rest of the year?
Do the black cats lose their magic?
Or are they simply recharging their scare capacity?
In our ordinary lives, we revolt against the unfamiliar and the foreign.
We prefer symmetry and recognition to disjointed anarchy.
However, we are willing to suspend our tepid aesthetic in order to allow ourselves to be uniformly scared — the cathartic release of screams and endorphins gives us a publicly accepted meme for getting a full-body rush without needing to privately excuse the orgasmic experience.
The everyday lonesome takes on new meaning when we seek to place bogeymen in closets and monsters under the bed.
We don’t see poverty or despair or damage in the abandoned: We prefer instead to mitigate reality by envisioning ghosts and demons and the bubbling cauldron of witches unknown.
“Burn it down, or they will chase us!”
Scaring ourselves makes us feel better.
An entire movie franchise was built upon the false scare of Friday the 13th.
It’s big business to scream and gather blood.
What, then, happens to the bloodless among us?
Do we, the bloodless, scream in the terror of self-recognition that we are the waking undead and that our entire lives are merely a morality play against our inevitable, terroristic, demise?
Or is there something greater to be earned in the deception of our deaths and in our unending renderings to trick the Grim Reaper into a temporary suspension of his final, moral, duty?
Why do we need to create fear and where is the reality in our disbelief?
Carnival rides do the same thing for me, David. They scare the boogies out of me. I hate riding them. I have to so I don’t look like a scaredy cat.
Anne! Why must you scare yourself just to save face? Are you culturally mandated to find your fear and cling to it for your life’s sake?
Kids, David. They don’t have any fear so to teach them I go on the rides and scream my head off. They laugh. I cry. They’ll learn soon enough right.
That makes sense, Anne. I suppose it is the job of the parent to draw the thin lines of distinction for their children between fear, thrills and the real horrors of living.
I agree completely. Are our lives that sad, that we must create a surreal entity followed by superstition to actually live? it’s odd becaue the world is sad, so we must every once in a while drift away, but! always keep in mind real vs surreal; and always keep an open mind.. and less be fooled by something that is non existent.
Your point about creating surreal entities to keep us human in a provocative argument, falcon9gxgc. I wonder if cavemen had the need to self-frighten to feel alive — or was the world around them scary enough?
Good point! Their world was definetely scary. Fear is a human trait that we all share, however when clashed with different cultures, some things that we’d consider frightening are just right or normal to that particular audience.. But for cavemen that was every day life (dinasours, creation of language, etc), and for us terrorism and other major global issues is every day life. Both equally frightening, however there’s a line between fear and creating fear to escape the already inevitable horrors of the world. So we create fear for entertaiment. Too feel alive in a world already dead. Cavemen too probably did the same.
Fear does ignite the flee or fight impulse — but I wonder why we feel the human need to test that ephemeral, life-saving, device in situations that don’t require its ultimate end?
Fear has now become an effective political cudgel: Don’t want to die a fiery death in another World Trade Center bombing? Then we need to invade other countries so we can sleep well at home. The reason we have two giant pits in the ground in NYC is because it is politically smarter to leave a gaping wound to remind us of the terror every day than filling it in, building it up, and moving on with our lives as the living.
Your point about real fear and manufactured fear is genuine and on point. Hunting wild boar is a hoary experience for caveman — or modern man — while going on an elephant expedition is more entertainment than need to feed your family.
There are lessons in fear that can be effectively propagated. Fear of fire, for example, is innate in horses — they won’t cross a line of burning fire under any circumstance, while we humans are drawn to the flames as a source of heat and life. We only learn to fear fire only after it has burned us and yet some of us never learn that lesson after multiple singeing.
Man wants to feel like a greater being, and fear is a good test. It allows anyone to go that extra mile.. I do agree, the WTC serves as a reminder of terror. Terrorism is fear, and we wake up everyday afraid of the uncertantity ahead. You’re right about the fire too, sometimes death is the ultimate finality to teach those around you a lesson, but even then you won’t realize it because you’re already dead.
I think that’s right, Ed. We live in fear of fear, and yet we also understand that if we can overcome our terror and perpetrate it on others, we can gain power over them by protecting them from their fear or threatening them with more fear for their disobedience.
The day this article went up I was facing my greatest fear – the dentist! Other than those that are necessary I try to avoid scares that are there merely for the purpose of scaring. Elizabeth wishes I would go to horror films but it’s just not the kind of thing that interests me 🙂
Speaking of dentists…
… I hope you are feeling better. Were you having general work done or something more painful?
Have you ever seen a horror movie? Are you familiar with any of the horror movie spectacles?
Have you ever seen the Saw series?
When I was a child I loved watching the Friday the 13th movies and Nightmare on Elm Street but I stopped liking that sort of movie when I started watching more cerebral films that questioned values and humanity – that sort of fun stuff 🙂
I basically had to have a cap in my mouth recemented. Nothing major. 🙂
Good for you, Gordon!
I confess I watched Saw V on Blu-ray last night. Wowser what a gore mess! I do think the Saw movies are my “favorite” gasher series, though — just because there’s a lot of tricksy gameplay going on in the script.
I’m glad your dental work was ordinary! Does your work give you good dental insurance?
I dont remember getting creeped out by anything except horror movies – that too when I was a kid…
Now, horror movies do not affect me the way it used to, but I dont enjoy them either.
That’s an interesting disconnect from what used to scare you, Katha. Did real life become more terroristic than horror entertainment?
Ha! Interesting speculation David!
Let us know if you get a flash of insight on the matter, Katha! SMILE!