Friday, 25 January 2013


My fears are not the tangible things that can actually kill you (I'm not afraid of great heights. I'm afraid of FALLING from great heights, or even more pedantically, suddenly not falling any more), but the more quirky, conceptual horrors. Obviously, I do have, to a certain extent, fears grounded in physical harm, but those are fairly standard, and thus not of note. These are my fears.

Failure. If you never try at something, you can rationalise it as, in some weird way, not failing, but the rather more ego-satisfying "not trying". "Oh yeah, well, I could be a world-class boxer if I dedicated four years to it, sure!" I can say, confident that I will never actually test this theory. Not trying is simply a much more energy-efficient method of not succeeding. It's a useful shortcut to failure, in which you don't have the soul-destroying experience of being bad at something before even getting competent. To come back to the earlier example, me taking up boxing would be several weeks of me getting punched in the face as I get gradually exhausted, fleeing and trying to hide from someone in what is essentially a small empty square. But if you never try at anything, you won't ever get past that terrible beginner stage, and reach the point where you are not completely awful at something, merely fairly abysmal. As an associate to this, there's the resigned indifference to your own failings. "Oh yeah" you mutter. "I'm just bad at that.", rather than thinking "I should try and get better at it by, y'know, working on it, rather than perpetually explaining I simply can't do it.".

I'm not doing it properly. Regardless of what "it" is. "Woah there, am I holding this burger wrongly?" (Yes. Ketchup fell down my sleeve, which is basically the standard for not holding something correctly, uncontrollable condiments), "Should I be brushing my teeth like this?" (If someone stabs you with a pointy stick and you start bleeding, it's not because you're not flossing efficiently. It's because they have stabbed you with a pointy stick. Similarly, even if you use shower gel and a loofah, if someone prods your chest with a dagger, you'll bleed. Copiously, I imagine). Should I carry my wallet in this pocket or that one? Oh, man, I've not got a Tesco clubcard. Better apologise! (I do this every time. As if the cashier is going to reach over the counter and grab me by the lapels, before shouting into my face "God, you useless wanker! You never shop anywhere else! You'd have enough points to be regional manager for Tesco by now as a reward! Just get your bloody life in order!" unless I include the contrite, mumbled appendage to my confession of not having a clubcard). Basically the haunting spectre of self-doubt and personal recrimination hangs in my thoughts. I've changed my handwriting three times in a bid to try and find one that can be considered neat and efficient, for example.

Everything I do is meaningless. Maybe that's why there's no point in doing anything. We are all Ozymandias. Most of us aren't revered in our times. None of us will be revered given a suitably long timescale (My legacy may well be pretty massive, obviously, but I sincerely doubt it'll outlast the eventual heat-death of the universe). Existential nihilism is a spectacular fear, making you disillusioned and cynical. You are meaningless, and everything you do is meaningless. Why do anything? So there's fundamentally no long-term advantage to doing anything. There's not much short-term advantage to it either because...

Creation leads to critique. Nothing you ever create can please all of the people all of the time (Even, astonishingly, these writings. I am as surprised as you are), and the people who aren't pleased are rarely shy in saying so. This, unsurprisingly, is a disappointing experience, and deeply dissuasive. If you never create anything, nothing you are responsible for and inherently therefore, proud of, can be criticised. It's analogous (Sort of.) to building a tower people occasionally knock down. It's such a dispiriting experience to have it knocked down, eventually you stop trying to build the tower at all. What's worst is the certain knowledge that I used to be ashamed of my own lack of tower, so I'd wander round knocking down someone else's. I guess this is one of the primary motivating factors behind it. This is inherently linked to the fear of failure, not meeting the subjective analysis of someone else being defined as failure, for some reason.

This one is a combination! I'm not particularly scared of either on its own, but when I think about them in conjunction, I panic. My mortality and my own lack of direction. I don't know what I want to do. This in itself is a pretty normal thought process, many of us spiral repeatedly in our little vehicle round the roundabout of life, looking for an interesting exit. The trouble begins when you realise your little car is running out of fuel all the time, and you have no idea what exit you want and there's definitely not a petrol station nearby. To extend the metaphor far too much. Then you panic about whether you should just take the next exit just to get off the roundabout. Or whether you should stay on, trying to find the best exit for you. Basically, I think "Hey, it doesn't matter that you have no clear-cut ambitions yet! You've got plenty of time." and my mind goes "Do we? I'm pretty sure that's not right. We've got like, 60 more years. Max. And only like, 30 more good ones. If you keep fit. Which you don't."

All of these make for awful Hallowe'en costumes. "What as you dressed as?" "The harrowing reality of your dwindling existence. You?" "I...I am a shark." "I hope you feel you spent the time making that wisely. You'll never get it back." "Goodness. Your costume IS good." "Thanks. More punch?" "No. No I think I might go home. And think. You know. About everything." "Okay. Have a nice night!".