Ursa, Tommy Ringtail, and Warren the Bunny - all curious and cautious.
Most, if not all, beings (I am talking humans and animals here) have a bi-polar relationship with fear. It sometimes pushes us to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do – at other times it stops us dead in our tracks, for no explicable reason. For most of us (animals included), fear also serves the purpose of keeping us away from imminent danger, and, well, alive.
Many people love to get scared. Think about the popularity of horror films and books, roller coasters, young children playing peek-a-boo, or for that matter the adrenaline junkies who get their fix by doing the things that most of us wouldn’t do in a million years.
Since the beginning of time (or at least since the time that oral traditions have been recorded), humans have created fantastical cultural or religious myths, featuring monsters and other worldly creatures, which were each designed around a particular fear. The world’s mythologies are littered with barbaric fiends and the monotheisms have Satan or the Devil.
As we have learned during our newest class at DRC, Rites, Rituals, and Beliefs, religion has three main functions: comfort, origin stories, and control.
This last one, in my mind, is the predominant objective of all formalized belief systems. By creating monsters based on fears (from the natural world as well as “others”), religious ideologies have used those innate human feelings of anxiety to influence behaviors.
Sometimes they work, but, I would guess, that more frequently, they don’t. As mentioned in previous posts, we humans are perverse creatures. We, simply, don’t respond well to rules, limitations, or scare tactics. In fact, it is probably safe to say that each of us produces our own monsters, as a way to rationalize or deal with our own personal neuroses. The threat of going to Hell will not stop me from doing something, but put a mouse in my kitchen and I will not step one foot in there until it is gone (by which, I mean in a trap, dead – apologies to all small mammal lovers). That rodent may be tiny, but in my mind, it is as colossal as any monster the Ancient Greek’s ever came up with. The same goes for public speaking, attending social gatherings, dealing with officialdom (government forms and applications), or even picking up the phone to call anyone (whether I know them or not) - all phobias, that I do battle with - on the daily. I must admit that on some days I am more victorious than others. There are many evenings that I crawl home in defeat resolving to do better on the morrow. To acknowledge that our fears represent something we need to do - to grow - is often the first step. In my experience, you will get on with all the important stuff you are destined to accomplish after you are able to invite your monsters out from under the bed - by name, into broad daylight, where you can wrestle them into manageable motivational tools. As for my mouse, rat, snake, and bat phobias, those can stay right where they are - no need to welcome them into my life, quite yet ...