I recently came across an interesting sentence, in a book by Agatha Christie – “Death Comes as the End”. The statement was made by the “hero” of the book Hori–”Fear is incomplete knowledge”. In effect, according to Hori, we often fear those things about which we don’t know much or the outcomes of which we cannot reasonably predict. As I paused to reflect on these words, I could not help but concur with the truth in them. There are many instances that sprang to my mind, which could be used, in support of this.
What are the things we usually fear? Something outside our normal routine, something which comes along once a while? Something which cannot be properly seen? Something which we are not mentally or physically prepared for, and are hence uncertain about? Or something about which we simply have no clue? If we think about it, I’m sure all our fears would fall into one of the categories above.
Let’s now examine a few of the commonest fears. The most common ones among youngsters or the “working class” would be – fear of examinations, fear of unemployment, job interviews, job insecurities, uncertainties in career path etc. If we look at the underlying causes of each of these – one thing is sure to stand out – most of them stem out of lack of predictability. We fear each of those instances because, we are not sure of the outcome – the prediction of the result is beyond us. Indeed, many of us keep living in fear of some outcome or the other, while we may or may not suffer through the actual consequences themselves – in short, we don’t know and can’t be sure, hence the fear, the worry and whatnot!
That aside, what about other experiences – trying out a ridiculously dangerous ride in an amusement park, or taking a plunge into the deep waters of a swimming pool for a first time, or even just traversing a very busy road in peak traffic on a vehicle for the first time? The reason for the fear felt, in these cases is also incomplete knowledge – we don’t know what it would be like under water, in the midst of traffic or just to be thrown into the air! What about horror movies – why do the scariest scenes occur in the dark, in the wee hours of the night or when visibility is poor – say in a mist? Simply because – our vision is not what it is, when there is enough light – we don’t know and can’t be sure, what horrors lie in wait for us – in other words, just incomplete knowledge and the tricks played on us, by our very own minds!
However, once the initial fear is swallowed down and we take the plunge, I’m sure the levels would come down drastically. As a wise man once said, “The first time is the hardest”.
What happens the next time we try out any of these things? We know what could happen to us, in the worst case – we’ve probably been through it and survived it as well – it isn’t as worrying and formidable as it was, the first time. In case we do feel overwhelmed and unsure of ourselves, we always have an experience to look back on – in case that was a rough one, we could just use it to motivate ourselves. There’s a famous Tamil movie dialogue to this very effect – “Evalavo panitom, idha panna matoma??” (Literal translation – We’ve done a lot, won’t we be able to do this?)
In fact, this is the very philosophy, I’ve adopted of late – whenever I come across some particularly difficult or tricky situation, which I have to go through, I throw my mind back to anything I’ve managed to accomplish single handedly and which I’m particularly proud of and just take the plunge, hoping for the best! I do hope to continue on these lines, cruising with ease through periods of uncertainty, unpredictability or plain unpleasantness!