Tuesday, October 25, 2005

[Essay] Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the Unknown

As much as we’ve made lots of discoveries over the past few decades, human beings will never abolish ignorance... and the fears that come along with it. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of things we won’t know, and probably will never know. Some people, however, fret about this uncertainty.

I believe that within each human being is a desire for knowledge. It’s not an infinite well though, and some people are content with knowing certain things and ignorant of others. My mother, for example, while claims she’s interested in learning about the latest technologies, show’s no real interest in it. As long as she can use her mobile phone, program the VCR, and order us children to check her email, that’s fine. The only time she persists in being up to date is when me and my sister leaves he house. My mom wants to know where I’m going and what time I’m coming home, even if I myself don’t know the details. Just the other day, I went to a nearby Internet Cafe three streets away from our village. Immediately my mom came calling, disrupting my reverie (as much as playing games in a noisy venue can be called a reverie). Never mind the fact that I’ve been to that place several times in the past, or the fact that it’s walking distance from my home. Did I mention there are security guards outside the Internet Cafe, because it’s right next to a bank?

Their fears are the result of ignorance, which in turn gives rise to paranoia. The paranoia, however, is not the product of ignorance but human creativity. Some children (and even some adults) fear the dark. What’s so scary about darkness? It is a natural phenomenon after all; the sun rises in the morning, and sets in the evening. What’s the big deal about the night? Why is it usually associated with evil or unspeakable horrors? Mainly because the darkness conceals, it shrouds something with mystery. What’s horrible about ignorance is that people seldom leave it at that. They try to piece things together, whether it’s factual or not. Why do we have myths? Because people tried to piece together how the world worked. Why do we gossip? Because we pretend to be knowledgeable about someone or something. Of course this pseudo-knowledge must come from somewhere. That’s where our imagination comes in. Why are most myths fantastical? Because that’s what our minds could imagine. Why does gossip often stray from the truth? Because we replace facts with theories, conjectures, and conclusions. And why is darkness scary? Because the darkness is like a blank canvas, and we fill it with fears we would otherwise not have thought of.

That’s not to say fear of the unknown is a bad thing. It’s what drives us to attain knowledge after all, to be well informed. However, it is capable of conquering us, breeding in us seeds of paranoia and despair. We have the saying “better safe than sorry.” In one application, it’s good since we take precautions to cover our ignorance. It’s like bringing an umbrella on a sunny day, especially when we haven’t heard the weather forecast. On another, it can be a drawback. We might make too many precautions that we might never accomplish what we set out to do. It could be going on a camping trick but packing everything you need, from the refrigerator to the kitchen sink.

The thing about uncertainty is that we should accept it. There will always be some things we’ll never know. It’s like studying for an exam. No matter how much you study, there’ll be a point where you won’t know what questions your teachers will ask. Rather than spend 24 hours a day studying, just study all you need to study (whether it takes you 2 hours or 15 minutes), and stop worrying about it. What will come will come. The opposite of ignorance is not knowledge but trust. Trust in your own skills. Trust in a higher being. Trust in your friends, your children, your parents. And more importantly, trust in humanity. How many times have you heard a parent saying to their child “It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s all those other bastards out there I don’t trust!”? If the parent truly believes that, then why bother living in that society? Move to another village, state, or country. But in the end, the same problems will arise. I’m not saying trust everyone you meet, but one can’t obviously live a life where you distrust everybody and everything.

What’s the best way to combat ignorance? Equip yourself with knowledge. When that fails, equip yourself with trust. And if your fears still come true, accept your fate, and learn to deal with it the best way you see fit. I can’t prepare for everything, but I can expect the unexpected.


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