Monday, December 29, 2008
The terror in the night
That's got to be one of the most complex feelings that a human being can have. Do you doubt me? Perhaps you think fear is only fear and that's just that. Either you're afraid, or you're not.
Yeah? What of horror films? Scary books? Haunted houses? Halloween?
People love to be afraid. It's one of our favorite feelings. We watch terrifying movies about death, murder, and monsters (oh my!). What are the first five books that come to mind when I say the word "classics"?
Personally, I think of 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens, 'Frankenstine' by Mary Shelly, 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen, 'Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck, and 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker.
Two of those "classics" are horror stories about monsters and evil and villagers with torches and pitchforks.
Maybe people enjoy fear because of the adrenaline rush. Or maybe it's just the nastier side of our curious nature. You don't get to see blood and gore every day. Why do you think people slow down when there's an accident on the side of the road? They want to see something horrifying. Why they want that may even be a mystery unto themselves.
But oh how they want to see it.
Back to the adrenaline theory. Fear feels good, after the fact. Some people simply delight in dread. They watch a scary movie or read a terrifying thriller to get their blood pumping, to excite them, to feel alive.
Fear is just fascinating. One of my favorite paintings is "Gothic Nightmares". I once read an article that mentioned that painting. It talked about how well the painting demonstrated night terrors, those dreams where you feel like you're awake and there's something horrible in the room with you, but you can't even move. You're petrified and immobilized.
But it's famous. We don't shun it because it scares us. In fact we embrace it. Perhaps it makes us feel brave. Really, there isn't any courage without fear. Who needs to be brave if they are not afraid to begin with? Bravery is all about confronting fear.
That's it. We terrify ourselves because it teaches us about ourselves. We frighten ourselves to prove our own courage. If I could never fear, I could never know if I am a hero, or nothing more than a coward.