My parents read to me a lot when I was small. One book, being the morbid little thing that I was, I often requested was Some Things Are Scary by Florence Parry Heide.
It was an educational experience. Some things are just plain scary, and you can’t do anything about them… no matter what they say on any of those syrupy kid shows you see everywhere else. And the book didn’t make me scared of the things it listed, necessarily. Getting a shot, for instance– that’s never scared me. On the other hand… the apple with the mustache always got to me. There’s no good reason for an apple to have one– either it’s gone moldy, there’s a nasty stinging caterpillar crawling on it, or something even worse is going on! Bleah.
But reminiscing about this lovely piece of literature made me wonder about fear. There’s a lot written on the subject, goodness knows. As old FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” A sinister but ultimately harmless movie doctor said fear is what makes human beings live so long compared to other animals. George Lucas said fear leads to the Dark Side. That’s all well and good. Fear is bad. We should fear it.
But what do we fear instead? How does it change?
When I was getting read Some Things Are Scary, I was afraid of the black panther under my bed. Don’t judge me. About the time the panther stopped bothering me, I acquired my morbid fear of sharks after a creepy incident at the aquarium. (This is why jelly shoes are a fad that never needs to come back.) Now I’m still afraid of sharks, catfish and crocodiles, but what really keeps me walking the floor nights are my student loans. My fears have evolved and grown up with me.
Like the New Testament said, when I was a child, I thought as a child… and so on. When I was a kid, I was afraid of a variation of the monster under my bed. That’s no longer the case. My fears are for the most part now, very adult in nature. Except for the apple with the mustache. That thing is still scary no matter how old you are. And maybe that’s another lesson in that book. Some fears can’t be sung away like in Barney, and some are too weird for time to do away with. The thing to do is to not let our fears get the better of us. We accept them, and we work with them. Shoving them back under the bed doesn’t help. That’s what really leads to the Dark Side.