Probably each of us can recall a time when as a child we believed with utter certainty that there was a monster hiding close by our bed. We were so afraid we couldn't close our eyes, and every shadow in the darkness and creak of the house was attended to with adrenaline fuelled vigilance. Finally we would be unable to take another moment of our own terror and we would work up the vast amount of courage required to call out for our mother or father to come to us, a huge risk because we knew we would have to reveal our position to the unseen enemy. Those moments until our parent arrived felt endless and only when they finally came into our room and turned on the light did we realise we had been holding our breath.
The fear we felt as children - that children today feel in the same circumstances - is real. It paralysed us, and it paralyses them. When our parents opened the closet door to show us an empty closet, distinctly lacking in monsters; we found it hard to believe that there could not be anything there. Some of us might have begged our parents to excavate the entire contents of the closet just in case the monsters were hiding where we couldn't see them.
Right up until the last box was taken from the closet, we believed we would be vindicated, that a monster would pop out and scare our parent as much as it had scared us. The shock we felt as we walked into our now empty closet was something we would remember for a long time. Unable to let go of the horror of our past experience, we were forced to reconcile our elusive monster with the harmless evidence before us. We reasoned an explanation - either the monster was afraid of grown-ups or it didn't like the light. Realising our parent was tired and wanted to go back to bed, we chose option two and asked for the light to be left on.
For a while after, we watched and waited, testing our theory. In time the well-lit room began to make the monster we feared seem a little impossible, if not outright silly. Bravely we ventured back to the closet and opened it, to find it still empty. Back in our bed, sleep gently stole over us as we rested safe in the knowledge that so long as there was light, the monsters would stay away.
These days as our world changes, we have been given grounds to fear certain elements. Extreme weather events caused by climate change are rapidly becoming a reality, affecting the stability and security of tens of thousands. Many lives this year alone have been irrevocably affected by extreme climate events. When a storm brews in the distance, people know real fear, because these days the weather's wild unpredictability leaves one expecting the worst, and sometimes those expectations are tragically fulfilled. These are not 'monsters' in the dark, these developments are real, the cause is yet unknown and scientists are working hard to understand why our planet's climate is changing as it is. It seems the more the scientific community learns, the less they are certain of any one cause. We have reason to be vigilant. To learn, and understand.
However, there are many things which are being feared that are no more than our proverbial childhood 'monsters' in the closet, and the simple shedding of light will banish them away to where they belong. Fears such as the fear of Comet Elenin causing apocalyptic damage to our planet (cue the tragedy that misinformation led to regarding the 1997 Comet Hale-Bopp). Further along we find copious fear mongering involving aliens; Planet X's; government cover-ups and every imaginable combination of armageddon-esque scenarios that could ever happen to Earth. All of these fear videos and more are available in virulent numbers on YouTube, none of them serving any purpose apart from providing more grist for the fear machine. These theories are nothing more than science fiction, some of them so badly written and presented it is shocking to believe that these videos get any views, let alone comments. But they do receive both views and comments and it is clear there are millions of minds who truly do believe in what they are watching.
It is incredibly sad with our advancement in technology and science the masses have degenerated into fearful beings, jumping at shadows, and believing lies made to garner higher hit ratings on YouTube. Conspiracy theories are also made to fuel irrational fear. There is no way to ever know the truth, so one is caught in an unending trap of darkness, without a glimmer of light anywhere. Fear can only give birth to one thing, more fear. There is no peace when one is in a state of anxiety. Fear is an inheritance from early man who needed it to sense and flee imminent danger, and today is useful in dangerous circumstances to avert loss of life - but the fear we know and experience much more frequently is one we fabricate in our minds. This fear is nothing more than a diversion we have created to stop ourselves from enjoying the gift of life and everything it has to offer. We are not victims of self-induced fear, we choose this fear, we choose to watch the videos and believe what we hear without investigating for the truth. We choose to let it control our lives, our decisions, our finances, and ultimately our state of mind.
The most tragic part of all is that we while we are distracted by keeping up with every scenario of our 'imminent' global demise we are missing out on the wonder of life, on the joy of being alive - of residing in a rare cocoon that is travelling alone along the far edge of a vast galaxy 100,000 light years wide. We miss out noticing a doe grazing in the woods, an eagle soaring in the skies or the breathtaking majesty of our sun rising.
We cannot ever know for certain what the future holds, or what will happen to the Earth, but we can turn away from self-induced fear and instead choose to experience our lives as completely as we were meant to while our planet is still green, whole and beautiful. So, while there are whales to watch, stars to behold, mountain snows to climb, shadowy forests to roam and warm breezes to turn our faces towards, we should seek these and all other good things. In a life lived like this, the power of the darkness will fade; and the light will take its place, revealing to us what we have been missing all along - that there has never been anything to fear.
Originally published on Paradigms Bend Sept 5 2011