Monday, October 22, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 10-28-07
Jeff Gill

What Really Frightens You?

Still another week to time change, and setting our clocks back an hour. The days get shorter, and (finally) cooler. Above, a full moon dances among the scudding clouds.

Are you scared yet?

No, that won’t do it. Just atmosphere and lighting effects won’t ruffle your goosebumps, we who’ve seen Freddy Krueger and Jason LeMasque.

Does the prospect of wearing white out of season tend a tingle up your spine? Is it the possibility of having your in-laws stay at your house for a week your worst nightmare?

Clearly, there are many who live in fear of being seen in public without proper hair products in place, and not a few who need the security of earphones playing their tunes to block out the sheer horror of birdsong and passing traffic.

But seriously, what scares you?

Running out of money could do it for most of us, except we have figured out how to hide the fact it happened three paychecks ago behind a curtain of credit card slips and payday loan paperwork, drifting off the counter unread.

Illness is the great fear for anyone, and the growth of the medical industry has as much to do with tending our fears as it does with keeping our carcass functioning smoothly.

Death waits behind the cemetery gate, but more and more our fellow citizens are choosing to skip the graveyard, if not the grave, with not only boutique memorial services, but specialized disposal plans – launched into space like Scotty (James Doohan) was, or made into a diamond for a piece of memorable jewelry.

It would scare me to end up, posthumously, in a pawnshop. Anyhow.

It may be the prospect of shuffling off this earthly coil in a particular way, like the endless junior high playground conversation – would it be worse to be hanged, or have your head cut off? Winston Smith feared rats knawing his face, which makes sense, even if betraying Julia didn’t, but that’s Room 101 for you (see “Nineteen Eighty-Four” for more details).

Agoraphobia is fear of the agora, which is to say “open spaces” beyond one’s home, like the Greek marketplace which gives a name. All fans of Charlie Brown’s nemesis Lucy VanPelt know that pantophobia is the fear of everything, which strikes good ol’ Charlie Brown as the right diagnosis. Yours?

Fears are various and changeable – I once feared stewed tomatoes, and now do not. I don’t like them, I just don’t have to have them around my house now that I’m the parent. On the other hand, my parents liked lamb brains, breaded and fried, and I kind of miss the taste. The giant beef tongue in the fridge after butchering season, slowly sliced into sandwiches, neither pleased not bothered me. Just keep your stewed tomatoes with stale bread soaked into them, and slowly stirred before my horrified eyes, far, far away.

Nope, nausea doesn’t quite add up to fear.

You can be made queasy and uneasy to the point where fear literally strikes through your vitals, as grandma might say; come to think of it, the page in the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” of the astronomical signs corresponding to the disemboweled figure (arrow pointing to “Vitals”) always left me quite ill at ease.

Watching a horror movie, or reading a Gothic novel, for the sheer thrill of fright, has never been my cup of tea, or cup of eye of newt, either. Some folks seek out the most gory haunted house or ask to sleep in the haunted room because fear is their catnip. Having rappelled down cliffs, buildings, and once from a helicopter, I know the raw wrench of fear, but that’s a reminder to me never to do so again unless something behind me is burning, or a baby is below me on a ledge.

You need to know the outlines of your fears, so a good grip is always available to you on ‘em, but to trace every inch of your anxieties, and revel in them repeatedly, just strikes me as a bit much.

Then again, I frequently get up in front of groups and speak, which polling regularly shows as a greater fear factor than death. Maybe I’m a thrill seeker and don’t know it.

What scares you? ‘Tis the season!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; his greatest fear is missing a deadline. Send him your timely observations at

No comments:

Post a Comment