What I Fear
Many things no longer scare me.
Darkness does not scare me.
Pain does not scare me (mostly).
Even death stopped scaring me (as much as it used to).
But that doesn’t mean I’m fearless. Fearless is dumb. Fearless is mindless. Those who have no fear are at best too distracted to understand what they fear, at worst so mired in own hubris and bravado to understand that to have fear is natural, allowing for mastering the self and gaining a healthy, necessary perspective on life. I have plenty of those fears.
Chief among them is the fear for my son.
Alexander is the greatest achievement in my life. I love him, I want to guide him and equip him with the tools necessary for thriving in this dark, cruel world we inhabit. I want to give him a childhood of happiness, so that he has a reliable foundation upon which to build his life. I want… I want him to be happy, as much as possible. But here lies the fear: What if I was cruel and unfair by the simple act of conception?
Was it in my rights to bring him into this moribund world that seems to fall apart? For every “less war, longer life, better science” argument, there’s a Trump, Kaczynski, Orban, Bolsonaro, or another little Hitler to show that our reality has taken a turn for the dystopian before out very eyes.
I fear that I have doomed him to life in a dying world, to salvaging our mistakes while struggling against the people who caused the damage – and their useful idiots.
I fear that I have committed a grave sin by forcing this world upon him.
A world plagued by the greenhouse effect. Where we have already destroyed over a half of non-human vertebrates. Where we poisoned the oceans, the air, the very soil we tread upon, and called it progress. Where we murdered children and called it democracy. Where we left people to die on the steps of hospitals in name of freedom.
I enjoy stories of struggle and fighting against impossible odds, where the protagonists face off against sinister, dystopian governments and sometimes win, sometimes fail, sometimes… Sometimes a third option happens.
Many of these stories are set against the backdrop of a ruined, derelict Earth where life is almost extinguished, save for billions of hairless monkeys squatting among the embers, shrieking along with whatever distraction has recently emerged. Many of them feature coteries of the filthy rich and powerful, playing games with the lives of those they tread upon. They never tread lightly.
I just wish I could enjoy these stories as fiction.
So I fear.
I fear for my son. I fear for my love. I fear for my friends and family.
What’s worse, it’s not the kind of fear you can safely shed when you get home and enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a warm bath (or all together at once). It’s the feeling of foreboding, inexorable doom that accompanies you all the time, around the clock. You wake and you feel its touch when you look outside at the sky the color of a TV tuned into a dead channel, just feeling the heat coming from the heavens. You feel it when you breathe in the air – and realize that Poland having the most toxic air in Europe is no mere myth as you cough and sputter. You feel it when you drive through the city and see the little swastikas – Celtic crosses – vomited upon the walls by people too stupid to realize their hate is merely a means of controlling them.
So I fear.
Sometimes the feeling disappears and I can feel happiness again.
When I’m playing with my son. Talking with my wife. Drinking with my closest friends. I feel a glimmer of hope, then.
Perhaps this is by design. We are, after all, wired for misery. Misery got us through the savannas and the ice age. Unhappiness made us struggle to create things that would make us happy. Discontent made us try to improve.
But it’s maddening when said proclivity for misery also led us to invent devices that help keep us miserable and unhappy: Social networks, news networks, content delivery networks, spider webs full of spindly creations that have mastered the art of ensnaring you and feeding into that vicious, unhappy lizard brain sitting right beside the matter that helped us reach for the stars.
They keep us fearful.
So we fear.
So I fear.
Can I stop?