What fear can teach us
Recommended by Ari Wallach
In all classic movies, there’s a point that screenwriters call the “all is lost” moment. The moment when the hero feels furthest from ever achieving his or her goal. Luke’s hand is cut off, and he finds out Darth Vader is his dad. Rocky visits the stadium and realizes he’ll never win the fight. E.T. is dying and may never reach home.
Looking back on 2017, it felt a bit like civilization hit that point in our narrative arc. Floods, forest fires, gunfire sprees. Enough to make us feel that our collective fears for the future were beginning to manifest. Enough to make us fear that evil would overpower good, that our societal angst would engulf our hopes for a flourishing civilization.
In the broader span of human history, 2017 is just one of many points of reckoning we’ve encountered, times in which we’ve been forced to question our long-held truths and trusted systems. But it’s tough in these particular moments not to succumb to our fears, to the notion that we don’t get to own and shape the futures that were heading toward.
Karen Thompson Walker’s TED Talk, “What fear can teach us,” reminds us that it’s actually our moments of greatest fear that remain our reason to hope. Our fears in those “all is lost” moments demonstrate our capacity to paint our futures in lucid detail. So what if we could use that capacity to imagine something less bleak?
What would it look like for us to reclaim our visions of the future away from the fear-industrial complex? It’s easier to let fear fuel our visions of tomorrow, but it’s far more powerful to conjure up images of a future that we actually want to achieve, images that give us a destination to drive toward as we make decisions with long-lasting impacts for ourselves and those around us. Yes, fear can and has played an important role in helping us conjure up terrible ideas of what could happen — that dark cave probably does have a Saber-toothed tiger in it. But it is no longer the Paleolithic.
As a year of floods and fires recedes, the future feels uncertain. At this juncture, we’re faced with a decision. As Karen says, we can use our active imaginations to feed our collective angst. Or, with our visionary powers, we can begin to dream up a future that gives us hope. No one is coming to write in our civilizational plot twist. We ourselves determine the hero’s arc by dreaming of tomorrows based on hope.
|Watch “What fear can teach us”|