Fear ...

So what is it, that you fear?

When I mount my trusty steed, tricked out with protection from the sun, water, camera, and cellphone, my thoughts are of adventure, exercise, fresh air, great views, peace and solitude, and time for reflection. At times my grit it tested by a particularly steep and rugged uphill gradient. I must then find a balance, between the thrill of the subsequent downhill and a desire to return home uninjured.

Some locals stare in disbelief, others smile or giggle as villagers do. Those who know my name, ask where I’m off to. I wave and point as I whisk by at speed, unaware of the conversation that follows. Aren’t my relatives afraid for me and my safety? Judgement is questioned and fears enumerated.

At times it seems that my neighbors live in a constant state of fear. There are numerous fears born of superstition. Fears of weather, animals and the natural environment. Fears that others will have more or get to something before they do, like fruit, fish, mushrooms and anything else that can be harvested from the forest, including trees.

Their fear of theft, when there are so few strangers about, suggests that deep in their hearts they covet their neighbors possessions and would make off with them, given the chance. They fear being different and not being accepted. They fear anything new. They fear loneliness and isolation. They fear old age without children. The list is so extensive as to give one pause and wonder if they do not fear life itself.

One would like to think, that in the developed world, with greater knowledge, education and sophistication there would be less fear. One would be wrong, however, as many elevate the measure and degree of fear to an art form. Much of it having little or nothing to do with our daily lives and the struggle to move from this day to the next.

Fear is often used by the powerful to control the weak. Be it nations, governments, politicians, military, law enforcement, religions, schools, institutions, communities and even families and parents, fear is used to keep people in their place. When one is taught to fear and constantly reminded of what one cannot do, it becomes difficult to embrace what can be done, what is possible and to have hope. Life becomes a burden instead of a joy.

Ironically, the fear that is meant to control us, leads some to seek a release or a total loss of control and fear. Sometimes to be found in drugs or alcohol or total abandon on the highways or some combination of these elements. As a family we are once again witness to the resulting aftermath. My wife’s mother, aunt and uncle from her father’s side, have made the long sad journey to Rayong from Chiang Rai. My wife’s 17 year old cousin, yet to begin her adult life, was lost to family and friends. Yet another victim of road carnage and the notorious two wheeled death machine, the motorcycle. Too often fear does not extend to real dangers. How can it, when we are taught to fear our own shadows? When fear is overused, at some point, doesn’t it lose its effectiveness?

To paraphrase, perhaps my only fear, is fear itself. Perhaps I fear a life lived in fear. A life devoid of passion, joy, beauty, love and adventure is perhaps worthy of fear.

So what is it, that you fear?