Thought Catalog
February 8, 2014

Fear

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Rennett Stowe

When boiled down, all negative emotions coalesce into a pool of fear. Outside of lust – if you want to call lust an emotion – fear is what has steered my life more than anything else.

Fear? Some are thinking now, it rules his life? Was he kidnapped or forced into slavery or made to join an army? Should he just become a Scientologist and free himself from all fear?

No, none of those things. Generally, my belief is that when every person living on earth examines their life they find the one thing unifying them with everyone else is the unwavering stream of fear coursing through their heart/soul/mind/id/ego/whatever that unnameable executor of their being is.

Fear is the thing that bolts all of us to a board of our own making, constricting each and every person into a life they did not really want but are unable to escape from. The longer we live, the more fear accumulates – sometimes legitimately, more times, not so much – and the tighter the bonds become.

I don’t want to force cliches on anyone. If fear is not a part of your life, do not read another word of this. However, I find that it is always there, so much so I often will not recognize it as such. I’ll call it by other names. When I don’t want to talk to someone who could be my wife but I fear I will embarrass them or myself by doing so, I call it cowardice. When I won’t attempt some sort of physical feat then I, or someone else, will call me a chicken.

Fear is just being scared, but often seems like too strong of a word, almost like hate. Whatever you want to call it, fear is what’s been woven into DNA over millions of years to save us from the worst case scenario.

Problem is, my worst case scenarios are never real worse case scenarios. I won’t be forced to find grubs in the forest for my subsistence if someone doesn’t say hi back to me at a restaurant. I won’t be killed by a tiger, more than likely, if I walk across the street when a sign is telling me to wait. Mine are modern fears that I have built up to live or die proportions.

As an example, social media. I can think of no greater dichotomy to illustrate this forced fear, no better of a ‘the emperor is wearing no clothes’ polemic for me than with social media. So many times, so many times I cannot count, I will think of a tweet but will not tweet it for fear of losing the few followers I have managed to gain.

For the sake of transparency, many of the tweets revolve around criticizing, if vaguely, the “scene,” the group of loosely afflicted writers who caused so much dread here.

Or, often just as likely, one of these tweets will be about butts, which, it is true, I’ve had plenty of thoughts about butts and the internet really does not need anymore, but it doesn’t mean anyone cares or would unfollow because of them, and even if they did, I should understand that I am just not their cup of tea.

Or, it could be just something absurd but I will fear it is too absurd and someone will unfollow me because of my absurd tweet and when they do that it means they don’t like me and that makes me fear no one likes me which makes me fear I will never have any of my writing ever published, because I am always losing followers and not gaining them.

I don’t know how that fear of offering a 140 character innocuous blurb is connected to my most basic instinct of survival, but it is, and it is so inexorably connected that it can cause palpable reactions in me, the kind of jumped-up sweat that should be reserved for when one realizes a bear is chasing them.

Sorry to sound like a grandpa, but these pathetic fears of mine are the kinds of fears we face nowadays. I guess it is possible something analogous plagued pioneer folk. Maybe then the general store only put up bulletins made by certain church members with husbands who brought in so many hides and the other people who made bulletins announcing the annual soap-carving festival were afraid of doing anything not in line with what the people who usually made bulletins announcing the annual soap-carving festival made, and maybe those less fortunate people felt a similar kind of fear to not do anything too different.

Maybe they did, though I doubt it. I think people lived life with more clarity then. Their purposes were more basic and being caught up with such trivialities would’ve been more the domain of the bourgeoisie.

I also understand, though it may not seem as though, that in order for me to live any kind of authentic life I have to live with a certain amount of abandon. I have to live in a way that I am not afraid to lose a follower, or anyone, at any time. I have to believe that the people who do not follow my work and who do not believe I am good are the people who do not follow any good work and do not believe in any good artists, or people, so it was not crucial they support me in the first place.

But that is a hard place to arrive at. I find myself too often desiring the approval of every person who has every clicked a button favoriting any other writing on the internet, whether at places as verified as The New Yorker – though they were guilty of incestuousness long before Twitter ever came along – or as seemingly base as BuzzFeed, or even Thought Catalog, for the haters. I just want everyone to recognize my work as the best work and I am in constant fear it never will be.

To end this, what I should say is that this is not a real fear. It mimics one, but it is not, not in any animalistic – since we are animals – sense. I cannot die from it.

It’s just that, sometimes, it feels like I am. TC Mark