The Ebola sourge has, b'H, passed. Not so many months ago Ebola was decimating Africa, inspiring Americans to go bonkers.
There were a number of articles about the misapplied terror over a possible U.S. Ebola outbreak. The ones that I noted were "Scarier Than Ebola" by Frank Bruni; "The Quality of Fear" by David Brooks; and "What Are You So Afraid Of?" by Akiko Busch.
Bruni dryly lists the more common dangers to Americans that appear to be unnoticed: flu mortality rates (which could be rectified by actually getting the flu shot), car crash victims (more than 50% die unbuckled), and the top cancer, skin (have you been on a summer beach lately? They splay themselves on the sand and roast). And what the hell is it with people not vaccinating their kids?!
Brooks attempts to explain the Ebola frenzy by delving into the current cultural mindset: our "segmented society"; those who are averse to globalization; instant news; and our fear of the inevitable, death. All those factors, Brooks writes, festered into a perfect storm of fear.
Busch utilizes the Ebola reaction to write about the concept of fear itself. Fear originates in the biological drive to survive, flight-or-fight. But it seems completely arbitrary in how it grips; childhood experiences can cripple adults, who ignore more frightening matters that require immediate damage control.
We have clear directives about what is really worth our fear. Participants in the real parade of horrors include radical changes in the carbon cycle, the rate of species extinction, extreme weather, genetically modified food, institutional financial misconduct that puts our security at risk. The archive of very real menaces threatening us now is so full, it would seem we hardly know how to choose what to be scared of.
Except that we do choose, and what we choose are generally the ordinary fears such as heights, public speaking, insects, reptiles. They are all things that have about as much chance of harming us as the characters behind some of this season’s top trending scary costumes: zombies, werewolves and cast members from “Duck Dynasty.”
Confession: I hate the dark. I require it to sleep, but being out at night really gets to me. I'm ecstatic when the daytime is extended, when I can arrive home from work with a touch of sunlight illuminating my path.
I know (now) that there are no such thing as spontaneously generating monsters under my bed. But my feet remained fully protected, every night. If they protrude from the blanket, I frantically cover them again. It's insane and ridiculous and pointless, but glancing at my family tree, I shall forever shield my toes from nightly exposure.
We all have our own skeletons of horror rattling in our heads. But we shouldn't allow them to distract us from the really important matters that must be tackled. Additionally, we shouldn't allow ourselves to become unduly absorbed in the un-important. (Yes, I'm talking about you, "shidduch crisis.")
- I must not fear.
- Fear is the mind-killer.
- Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
- I will face my fear.
- I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
- And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
- Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
- Only I will remain.
- — "The Litany Against Fear," Dune by Frank Herbert.