“The dinner had been rather good, though the chicken in my stomach did not agree with me. We were in a taxi, merrily on our way to the railway station. And then suddenly there was a screeching of tyres as my head collided with the driver’s seat in front and our car came to a halt. An elephant, larger than life, adorned with jewellery and embroidered draperies was crossing the road, with an even more decorated man sitting on its top. And then followed a long procession of beautiful carts; strong, big, regal horses; and palkis. A royal wedding procession! It would have been worth looking at except for the fact that it caused us to board our train when it had already begun to glide along the platform. Terrifying, really!”
“The demonic waves ate up the entire city. Houses, cars, buses, electricity poles, animals, and everything- stationary or moving- was submerged or floating away in a flood of water which seemed to rise gradually as if waiting and enjoying the time before it devoured the entire habitation. These were the images flashing on every news channel, on every screen; and the press throughout the country was printing for the next morning to report the Tsunami. And a couple of hours ago my father had boarded the flight for the very city which would now most probably be discovered after an excavation. With our hearts in our mouths, we awaited for any kind of contact from him.”
All the above incidences share a common force- the feeling of fear. Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. I believe the fear that haunts us all is the fear of the unknown, the fear of outcome, and the fear of unexpected. Biologists will say that fear is nothing but a rush of adrenaline. But since we are more than an assembly of cells and organs, we can say that fear has a few more attributes. As we’ll see further, fear is a much complicated order of emotions and is entangled within our beliefs and psychologies. We shall look at two of the fear inducing subjects shared by us all.
There is a belief amongst most of us, a belief as strong as the fact that two and two make four, a belief which associates darkness with negativity. When everywhere things like light, the colour white and warmth are portrayed as the emblems and the representatives of everything good on earth; whereas on the other hand darkness (symbolised as the Dark Arts or Dark Magic for people who believe in such things) and coldness are considered to be associated with evil; tools used by the villains in the fairy tales. This, believe me, is purely psychological. It is a concept implanted in our very nerves, right since our childhood, not unlike the concept of God. Why is light good and dark bad? In light we can see, light stimulates our eyes. In darkness, we cannot see, darkness simply means absence of light. This fact, this realisation, that we can’t decipher and make out things in darkness brings with it an element of fear, and not darkness itself (the poor thing is innocent). How easily can we roam about in our houses when electricity goes off at night? But same conditions at our friends’ and we might think that the house is haunted! After a busy and tiring day, a man, while sleeping, finds darkness much more soothing and relaxing than light. It is in darkness that the stars shine the brightest.
“How wonderful is Death,
Death, and his brother Sleep!
One, pale as yonder waning moon
With lips of lurid blue;
The other, rosy as the morn
When throned on ocean’s wave
It blushes o’er the world;
Yet both so passing wonderful!”
These lines by P. B. Shelley picture death as something pale yet beautiful. So intriguing is the mystery of death for the humankind that we have devised all sorts of weird and wild explanations to satisfy our egos and conscience. And to put a stamp over them all, we invent God. Heaven, hell, after-life, rebirth and what not do we entertain ourselves with? The reality is that no one knows what happens once we cross the threshold of life. But, unfortunately, what people are most afraid of is- death. If you’re going to die and die forever, that’s just bad! If you’re going to die and never to be raised again from the dead, that’s just too bad! Here, in case of death, we either fear the unforeseen or we fear the grief which it brings along, and not death itself.
So we see that actually it is that which we don’t know, that which we don’t understand, that beyond our comprehension which we really fear. And this is good! Because to overcome these fears we tread upon unknown lands and move along paving the way for civilisations to progress. The only unfortunate thing is that these fears harvest something else- the fear of a supernatural being. In daily experience, you are asked to fear God if you want to escape the atrocities of death and darkness. Most people will disagree with me vigorously in this matter, but that is an entirely different discussion. In short, what we need to understand is that fearing anything unknown is as unwise as watching a Salman Khan movie. A hundred years ago, we knew nothing about the moon, the Mars, or the astounding secrets of the human body. Who can tell (apart from God), a hundred years later we may have unravelled the mysteries of darkness, death, and the Universe!