Irrationality Wins

Fear, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen. (Side note – since when were dictionary entries written in second person?) But the strange thing about fear is that there’s no scientific consensus on its cause. Some argue it’s biological, while others that it’s exclusively psychological. It’s a good reminder that there’s so many things we don’t yet fully understand, including ourselves. 

I’m scared of many things. I’m scared of running into something – or someone – when I attempt to safely back up in the comforting chaos of the post office parking lot. I’m scared of somehow appearing incompetent, and thus embarrassing myself. I’m scared of mice and rats. I’m scared of something bad happening to someone I love. I’m scared of throat swabs. I’m scared of baby’s choking when people don’t cut their food into small enough pieces. But never before in my life – which yes, growing up in Canada has been incredibly privileged – have I lived in a constant state of fear for so long.

As Covid-19 peaks for a second time in our country, I know many of you can say the same. Here’s the thing about fear: we can tell ourselves that whatever we’re afraid of isn’t actually scary for any number of logical reasons. From afar, our giant human brains have the ability to think rationally – to exercise sound judgement.  Bertrand Russel once wrote that “Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” In other words, when it comes right down to it, when we get close to what we fear, it’s irrationality that wins. And right now, I’m more afraid of that than anything.

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