For as long as mankind has existed, the primal emotion we call ‘fear’ has always accompanied us. Our evolutionary path has driven us to fear the dark, the mysterious noises that appear when the moon is highest in the sky, and many more. Of course, there is always a certain rationality to the fears we possess, untold dangers from ancient beasts lurked in the corners untouched by sunlight, and the sounds they invisibly make could be a warning for their presence.
Yet sometimes fear can be irrational as well. Until a few years ago, I would flee as far as I could from larger insects, -cockroaches, grasshoppers, etc- and I have known other individuals who have a particular sense of dread for this Satanist class of animals. Thus, fear can be both a rational adaptation and an odd, confused response from our bodies to a supposed danger within a particular environment.
Fear functions, in a very simplified sense, as a warning to deter us from approaching potential dangers either hidden or obvious in our surrounding environments. However, humans do not live in the physical plane of life alone; we can construct abstractions such as rules, laws, norms, and so on to survive. Men live and strive in a world of both the physical and the metaphysical. To draw a conclusion from the previous statement, men do not just fear fires, floods, and famine, but also the possibility of their abstractions coming true or failing to be realized.
What is the one thing that we all fear? Obviously, there is not one obvious answer to this question. Rather, each of us have our own fears. Perhaps the threat of drowning could reduce my neighbor to tears, as much as my phobia of bugs does. Or, maybe another person could be plunged into the same state by the threat -or actualization- of the murder of his family and friends. Whatever our greatest fears might be, they are all an essential element of our lives.
How does fear help us become who we are, or even a better version of ourselves? Let us consider a case in which a single mother has the dream to provide her son with a college-level education, great healthcare, and a loving home. These are the three things the mother fights for. Therefore, their opposites are the things the mother fears the most.
Though not physical, the mother’s goals and fears are as real to her as taking down a lion or being eaten by it, to us. When we are chased by the king of the savannah, our short-term goal would be to survive the deadly sprint, due to our fear of being eviscerated by the beast. And when the mother sets her goals, she is running the same course we did when we were running away from said lion. Her fear of failure, likewise with our fear of being turned into mere animal feces, is a part of what drives her to reach her hoped for achievements.
Fear, be it sensible or incomprehensible, is a central component of the fuel that powers us to get out of our beds each morning.
Whatever your dreams may be, -a writer, musician, typical wealthy aristocrat- you are as passionate about fulfilling them as you are afraid of failing to do so. So what would happen if a person fears nothing? He is not lying, nor is he pretending to be invincible, this hypothetical man simply does not pay any mind to the chance of stabbings, poverty, starvation, et cetera. Would that man be able to do anything? I would argue that the answer is no.
Motivation is a combination of passion and fear. A man who fears nothing may still bear a passion for certain things, yet without fearing the possibility of becoming unable to bring his passion into reality, he would not generate the threat necessary to make him move. If we wished to live, but we do not fear the fires in front of us and would openly welcome them, our wish of living would not come into fruition. We would perish without fear; stagnant, unmoving, unproductive peoples lacking the necessary emotion required to do anything.
When we are still capable of experiencing terror, we should be grateful. It is a very effective imperative to do the tasks given to, or chosen by, us. When the heat of the flames send an alarm ringing in our heads, we would obey that alarm and get ourselves to safety. Without such an alarm, we would be engulfed in the flames of failure.
Embrace the shivers traveling down our spines, the panics we loathe, for they are the signs that we have a chance to become more than what we are today. To be afraid is to dream, and to dream is to embrace fear with open arms.