Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Am Fear

Art by Alfred T. Kamijian,
from Mysteries of the Unknown.

Warning: loose thought threads.

I approve, most highly, of the go-and-look approach to mysteries, to experimental archaeology in the Heyerdahl/Brendan Voyage tradition, and therefore to the underlying theory of cryptozoology.

However, cryptozoology as a study would acquire a lot more respect if the field wasn't beset by so many blatant frauds like the phony Bigfoot carcass debunked earlier this week.

In the first St. Claire chronicle, Stone Child, Lillie makes reference to the Am Fear, the Gray Man, the Scottish yeti, sometimes encountered by a lonely highland traveller, when the mist spreads down from the crags to shroud all sight except the rock-strewn path beneath his feet and the hunched boulders on either side.

The Wild Man, like many legends, has cousins among other cultures and other parts of the world.

And so we ask, as we should, if this collection of folk tales represents testimony of a physical reality -- that under the layers of legend a truth is buried -- or merely proof of a universal expression of collective fear. A primeval human fear of all the unknowns that may inhabit remote and isolate places and leap upon the unwary.

One's belief, or one's disbelief, about things paranormal -- and I suppose Bigfoot could be classified as both a scientific errata and a fable -- may depend on which branch of anthropological psychology one chooses to place the most credence. And we stubbornly insist that unknown doesn't mean unknowable.

Still, we like our mysteries. At times, we even like our fear.

Fear, however, is a vital motivator for our fictional people. We are often told to identify what our characters want. To that I would add we should consider what our characters fear. They do so often go together after all.

It's easy to provide the heart-stopping, chest-constricting sudden fear a character encounters during the machinations of our plots: when the knife-wielder lunges from an alley, when the car goes out of control, when someting blows up.

But we should remember the other kind, the ever-present, silent grade of fear that follows our footsteps like our shadows in the sun. The fear of possibles. Possibles that no application of odds and logic will alleviate.

I have a child in Afghanistan and so I think on it.


writtenwyrdd said...

Fear is indeed a wonderful motivator. Physical, emotional, social... I think someone (Freud?) called one of the main motivators in man the "avoidance of pain" but I cannot recall where I read/heard that.

It is impossible not to worry. Wish the circumstances didn't require it. But I'm sure she'll be okay.

haunted author said...

I did not know you had a child in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to anyone who has folks over there. I had relatives in the first Gulf War. The current War hit us intergenerationally, but my own son has just turned 17, and I have several nephews approaching that age. It is indeed a worrisome thing.

Regarding fear- I have been thinking about "the dark" quite a bit lately. Ever notice in an emergency the FIRST thing people do is look for more light-even if there is sufficent light. Flash lights, candles, matches are at the very top of peoples "prep" or "survival" lists. We refer to power outages as "the lights going out" no one says "the appliences going out" Ghost stories take place after dark- no self respecting ghost shows up at noon. They are also told after dark. Even in our hi-tech modern world we still have a subconscience anxiety- if not out and out fear of the dark.

writtenwyrdd said...

"no self respecting ghost shows up at noon" That is an excellent line. I think I shall start a story with it and 'prove' the speaker wrong. Or perhaps H.A. might do so?

Interestingly, people will seek light for comfort even if it will get them killed. Like in a situation where light can reveal your presence, people will sometimes build a fire anyhow instead of huddling in the dark. Or they will blind themselves to what's around them by using a light and killing their night sight, destroying the build up of visual purple that allows night vision to improve. Combat situations come to mind, the experienced soldier smacking down a wet behind the ears private for lightng a cigarette on guard duty or some such. Light reveals, too, and it can be a bad thing. But like H.A. notes, we like the light, even to our detriment.

Charles Gramlich said...

I get so irritated to at the idiots who perpretrate fraud in UFOs and Cryptozoology. Bring back public humilation for them, I say.

Great point about fear. Especially that lingering, long term fear. It warps the mind, changes the context for everything. A powerful effect on characters.

BernardL said...

One’s child in danger is the most horrific of imagined dread.

Bernita said...

My surface mind say she will be, Written. And she's had Blackwater training.

Haunted, I've had both of them there before...but this time I find myself more subject to anxiety.

"no self respecting ghost shows up at noon."
As Written said, that's a great line, but contrary to reportage.
Many ghosts go appear in daylight without apology or shame.Still, our automatic thought is that they are darkling based.

Very true, Written.Basic atavistic symbolism and the cave huddle syndrome sometimes overrides common sense.

Me too.
"It warps the mind, changes the context for everything."
That is well put. Thank you, Charles.

And further, Bernard, one which must be kept mostly internal.

laughingwolf said...

may your child return home unharmed, bernita...

yes, many points to ponder here

many fears out there, some as to make one paralyzed by the not knowing....

Robyn said...

Prayers going out for your baby. I was glad when my cousin finally finished and was transferred back to his beloved Alaska. Fear can be both motivating and crippling.

My son, who wants to be a wildlife biologist, believes very strongly in the possibility of the yeti. He absolutely thinks proof will eventually be found.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Godspeed home to your child. Blackwater is among the best, from the research I've done. I've a friend there and he writes the most fabulous posts about that beautiful country:

He and I spar violently on politics, but he's a straight up good guy.

re: Fear. It is the greatest cause of callousness in humankind.

I posted a def of uberculture for you. :)

Whirlochre said...

The slow-burning lurkers are the worst, and probably kill more people than guns. They just take a little longer.

You're right to say that fear is a great motivator. Going to great lengths to win a prize or accolade is one thing, but going to extraordinary lengths to avoid pain or oblivion is something else, particularly if the stimulus prompting the heebegeebees is imagined.

Bernita said...

Thank you, dear Wolf.
Yes, there can be a form of mental paralysis inflicted that leads one to rote activities and nothing more.

Thank you, Robyn.
And as we've seen other times, the proof may already be found but mis-interpreted or ignored.

Betsy, thank you. Excellent training from what I gathered when I debriefed her.
And thank you for his link - have been meaning to check him out.

And even worse when they are real, Whirl.

raine said...

...if the field wasn't beset by so many blatant frauds like the phony Bigfoot carcass...

As a believer in some things paranormal, these kind of people disgust me. And then to invite scrutiny? What was the idiotic point?

We are often told to identify what our characters want. To that I would add we should consider what our characters fear.

Good point!

Hugs for you and positive thoughts on the child.

Bernita said...

Raine, I guess hoaxers think they are clever, or funny, or something.
Thank you.

December/Stacia said...

Excellent point as always. :-)

The Anti-Wife said...

Fear of the unknown is far more intense because we can't develop a plan to deal with it, but fear is any form can be debilitating.

Good thoughts for your child!

Bernita said...

Thank you, December, AW.

"because we can't develop a plan to deal with it,"

AW, I suppose that's why we create superstitious rituals in an attempt to do so.

spyscribbler said...

Wow, yes, I do forget that, often. And your last comment: that's something else to consider. Those things we do, that often make no sense, to combat that fear.

When I was little, I slept under a furry robe, sleeping blanket, sheet, two blankets, and a comforter. Even in the summer with no air conditioning.

Bernita said...

We're a funny lot, Natasha.

Lana Gramlich said...

I agree w/Charles on the frauds, although I completely expected the recent bigfoot hoax to be just that. I'm sorry, but considering today's technology (not to mention how widespread it is,) if something was really "out there," we'd definitely know it by now. That's not to say there aren't things to discover, but I'm not holding my breath where Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Yetis or the Loch Ness Monster are concerned.

Bernita said...

Struck me as a remarkably clumsy fraud, Lana.
One wonders why - especially with today's technology - that they bothered.

writtenwyrdd said...

Here's a thought: What if the evil government Men In Black alien recovery teams who defraud the public about UFOs came and swapped the real thing for the rubber suit?

Bernita said...

Written, I am certain there are people who will maintain that is exactly what happened.

Scott from Oregon said...

I like the defrauders. They shine a light on the human mind and show us just how much we are willing to believe.

Consider them to be great educators.

Bernita said...

Con artists are great teachers, Scott - especially to other con artists.

Ello said...

My prayers and wishes that she comes home safe and sound! Fear would be with me also. How could it not? Fear for our loved ones is a powerful motivator.

I wish you my best.

Steve Malley said...

Wow, I wasn't ready for that to turn profound. Nicely done!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ello.

Steve, you must be kidding... profound??