Friday, November 19, 2010

Fear and Sight

In preparation for the marathon, I did a long run of about 16 miles a week and change before the race to keep the legs fresh. Autumn in New York makes a man glad to be alive. I believed that truly but in the pre-dawn darkness that thought remained distant and cold. I practiced my form and focused on the angle of my posture and the swing of my arms while Billy Talent screamed through the earphones.

The darkness, the winter makes a man lose focus. Recently, I was reading up on the slender man mythos. To avoid any hint of confusion, I will confess plainly that I have no balls when it comes to scary movies. I will sit through them and through discipline and willpower I will neither scream nor avert my gaze but inside I'm sniveling and crying. Walking home, I'll constantly be looking over my shoulder. When I get home, I'm sure to turn on the lights and wait at the door surveying each room before I enter. Every sound and movement in the corner of my eye startles me. I am that kind of guy. I can walk through any neighborhood in New York confident in fighting just about anybody I meet, but the "Devil" trailer (I haven't even seen the movie!) had me taking the stairs for about a month.

So my run took me through Forest Park. I didn't plan my run beforehand, just a double-loop of the usual. But coming to the eaves of the park, the trees loomed overhead above the flickering lamp posts. I noticed my route now.

Go forward. Fall back.

Go forward and face your fears. Face the reality of change. Your world is dying every moment. The knowledge you possess is quickly becoming obsolete. You'll need to change, to adapt, to grow. This is what happens if you go forward.

But if you go on the defensive the universe will slowly whittle away at everything you have until you die an empty husk. This is why I do not consider myself a conservative anything. Not in politics, not in theology, not in anything to which the word may be applied. Regardless of where I stand on particular issues, I may very well agree on many points, I refuse the name. I do not wish to preserve an imagined golden past. I want to see the world of tomorrow.

And that means running into the forest where monsters wait. My feet carried me into the park. Scratch that. I carried my feet into the park. All around me, I imagined spider-like monsters crawling, stalking me, ghastly blank faces and vicious, gangly limbs. I wanted to keep my eyes down on the road in front of me. No. I refuse. I looked up and sprinted 180 beats per minute. I wasn't running away. I was charging in. In my mind's eye, I saw the monster straight before me in all its grotesque horror and I charged straight ahead. If I felt fear, so too would my nemesis. We fear the dog that charges at us. Yet, which is the species that has yoked the atom and fathomed the abyss? Which is the one that rules land, air and sea? As a matter of fact, who's bigger? If a dog may frighten a man, then man should terrify the monsters.

As a child, we feared the various figments and phantasms. Some of us may have hid under the sheets, under the bed or in the closet hoping that the absence of sight meant an absence of the terrifying. This instinct dooms us. I look forward to the day when I tell my children that you make monsters disappear by staring them in the eye and not backing down. It's a lesson it's taken me a long time to learn.

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