A great deal has been made of the fact that the opposite of love is not in fact hate, but rather fear. I think this is a logical conclusion as hate is such a narrow and constricting emotion, whereas fear, like love, is expansive and multifaceted. Just as we might say we LOVE our children (and also our favorite TV show!), we can FEAR nuclear war (and also spiders!).
Also, hate has absolutely no useful purpose that I can think of, but fear is actually a wonderful, built-in survival mechanism that has over the course of many eons ensured the survival of our species. If our ancestors had felt no fear when confronted with deadly beasts in the wild, for example…well, bluntly, there is no US to have this discussion. Also: unlike hate (but like love), fear can be a great teacher; also: (like love) fear can be awful and brutal, or fear can be totally FUN.
My BFF has a theory about “fun fear”: she thinks most people are either horror film fans or rollercoaster junkies, but rarely do you meet anyone who is enthusiastic about both (although people who despise the pair are in great abundance). I have tested her theory and although you do meet the odd thrill seeker who adores each of these experiences, for the most part it seems she is right—some enjoy the physical, visceral sensation of fear, while others prefer the psychological torment. I am of the latter persuasion, perhaps not surprisingly as a writer and owner of a generally vivid imagination.
I trace my love of cerebral fear to my earliest childhood memories. When I was a toddler, my family lived in a house that had the misfortune of having a stream in the backyard. My actual memories of said stream are nil, but my memories of my siblings’ tales about the stream remain crystal clear (like the legend of Crystal Lake)…
This being the 70’s, and me being a baby, my Mom did very little actual supervision of my activities. (HA HA HA HA, just kidding Mom! By today’s standards, I mean.) So instilling a healthy fear of the stream was wisely delegated to my older brother and sister.
Who were older enough to be a) kind of twisted and b) very accurate in guessing what exactly would keep my berth from said body of water as wide as possible. They told me a monster lived there. Yup, they went Scotland on my ass, and I bought the tale hook, line and sinker. Older siblings suck, but often in an incredibly useful way.
They primed me for fear. Conditioned me to be afraid. I also suffer from a total recall of my cousin George repeatedly informing me one April Fool’s Day that I had a spider on my back. I was in preschool, so each time he said it, I believed. A dozen times over the course of one day. Damn, little kids are dumb, am I right?
But I was already plugged into fear. In those same years, my brother was a fan of the serial Dark Shadows. I recall being both attracted and repulsed by it, hiding behind a chair, peeking out for moments and hiding my eyes and plugging my ears for others.
Remember Kevin McAllister in Home Alone, with his (totally rational, imho) fear of the basement and his creepy neighbor? Well, put the kid on steroids and you have me, from my very earliest memories; fear was my guide and mentor. Then, at age 12, I saw the Stephen King miniseries Salem’s Lot, and that was the beginning of a life-long romance between the master of horror and I; I was irrevocably hooked.
All of this to say: fear gets a bad rap. This month’s theme is “Facing Our Fears” and it might as well have been “Transforming Our Lives” or “How to Show Courage”. What we forget (but the Cowardly Lion reminds us) is that without FEAR we have no opportunity to be BRAVE. Same goes for love, btw.
I do think this is why so many of us (me! Me! ME!) love our horror films or (you, not me!) rollercoasters. There is something that speaks to our very souls in looking the worst possible case scenario in the face and…laughing. When I hear a strange noise in the basement, do I cower under the covers and hope it is nothing? NO WAY!!! I make lots of noise myself, turn on all the lights and go to confront said noise because I already have my escape route carefully mapped out. Being afraid can be fun sometimes; but also empowering.
Our fear (and love) teach us how to display our courage. Our fear (and love) force us out of complacency. Our fear (and love) allow us to understand our vulnerability.
Our fear (and love) are gateways to our most authentic selves.
Neil Gaiman has said “if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection…or understanding of dark things when they show up.” This month, our guests and regular contributors share that when the “dark things” showed up in their lives, they had more than met their match.
Shareen and I welcome you to our nightmare this October! ~Kara
Image: Alex Noriega “Stuff No One Told Me”