We all live with a certain amount of fear, both rational and irrational. Learning to differentiate between the two is tricky. Fear’s original purpose I suppose, was to keep us alive long enough to produce offspring that were, hopefully, a bit smarter than we were. I’m not sure how well that has been working out, but fear could certainly have prevented us from petting a cute little baby Saber Tooth Tiger or failing that, provided us with the super charge of adrenalin needed to out run its 1000-pound mother or at least the caveman running next to us.
Although we now rarely confront that particular situation, fear can still protect us from doing something embarrassing like forgetting to zip up our pants or something stupid like posing a little too close to an alligator or a large bear. But when these sensible, rational fears get out of control, they can cause us to overreact, leaving us with nothing to wear but sweat pants and refusing to go near the water or a zoo. Irrational fear and its best friend doubt can cause us to miss out on some of the most wonderful experiences that life has to offer. Fortunately for us, we have an excellent tool at our disposal for weighing risk and the validity of our fears. Knowledge.
When I was young, I was plagued with anxiety and doubt. To make matters worse, I felt like my friends were completely oblivious to fear. One time my buddy Joe and I were swimming in a fill pit east of town when he decided to climb to the top of a 20’ tall pile of dirt next to the water. “Check this out… I’m divin’ in!” and he struck a pose. I freaked! “NOoooo…ARE YOU CRAZY?” I scrambled up the hill. “It’s only two feet deep…YOU’LL BREAK YOUR NECK!” He frowned, shook his head and waved me away, “Nah…. I’ll frog dive.” And then… he just jumped. The image is burned into my mind forever. Joe hurling through the air like a flying squirrel, both of his legs cocked like triggers, 90 degrees to his body, like… Well like a frog! His arms poised as though he was trying to push something in front of him. It seemed to take forever, but when he finally hit the shallow water with a “SPLAT”, he never even submerged! It was like someone had thrown a wad of paper onto the surface. Of course, at the time Joe and I together probably didn’t weigh 100 pounds, so it was basically physics that made the amazing frog dive possible. But Joe wasn’t just guessing. He KNEW that he wouldn’t be hurt. It wasn’t the frog dive that protected him. It was knowledge.
Yes, I know that deciding to do a modified belly whopper into two feet of water is rarely seen as an act of genius, but my point is that true knowledge is free of prejudice, free of irrational fear, and free of preconceived notions. I guess that’s what makes it so illusive, and so precious.