Fear As We See It Now

We fear debt, heights, death, nitrates, China, long words, God, and one another

Posted May 01, 2017

Patricia Prijatel
Source: Patricia Prijatel

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. Harry S. Truman, Special Message to the Congress: The President's First Economic Report, January 8, 1947

In the land of Google, fear trumps kindness by a count of 465 million. That is, “kindness” pulls 145 million results on a Google search while “fear” is at 610 million. “Hatred” rates a meager 72 million. "Fear" is popular, rating in the top ten percent of words searched on Merriam-Webster.

The top results under “fear” primarily explain the word as an emotion; a transitive (expect with alarm) and intransitive (to be afraid or apprehensive) verb; and as a feeling that’s also called disambiguation. As in, “the United debacles have exacerbated my disambiguation of flying.” 

Google helps us translate the word into other languages, demonstrating that the Welsh must spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders because they have 86 variations of the verb form alone. The Russians have five nouns and four verbs for it. Make of that what you will.

Bible quotes on fear include verses found in many Christian religions including, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let you hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) To which I want to say, “Nice, God. But how do you DO that?” The one that matches my current mood is, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)  Thanks for letting me off the hook about that tomorrow thing. Phew. Maybe I can sleep again.

As an acronym. FEAR can stand for 27 random things, including Forget Everything and Remember, an intriguing song by Ian Brown that never quite explains itself.

A compendium of Psychology Today blog posts about fear explain, among other things, how we’re defined by who we hate and how poetry can combat fear. And there's a movie called Fear, starring Mark Wahlberg and Reece Witherspoon. Mark's character has a dark side, and Reece's love of him turns into fear, the premise of roughly 2,568 movies.

In “Why We’re Living In An Age of Fear,” Rolling Stone writer Neil Strauss talks about the rush of anxiety from group polarization—if our friends are disambiguated, so are we.  And Marilynne Robinson, in an article succinctly titled, “Fear,” in the New York Review of Books, looks at the intersection of fear, Christianity, guns, and the Constitution:

When Christians abandon Christian standards of behavior in the defense of Christianity, when Americans abandon American standards of conduct in the name of America, they inflict harm that would not be in the power of any enemy. As Christians they risk the kind of harm to themselves to which the Bible applies adjectives like “everlasting.”

After that, we have 609.99 million more hits on the things we fear, including debt, heights, death, nitrates, China, long words, God, and one another. Discussions of fear, as well as its pull on us, as Robinson notes, are everlasting.