One NASA scientist who is tasked with answering the public's questions about the 2012 Doomsday end-of-the-world hoopla has named this unique fear; he calls it "cosmophobia." Every day he hears from people who are actually fearful that an invisible planet (possibly guided by aliens) is on a collision course with the earth right now. Or that solar storms will cause a polarity shift in the sun and cause an earth-wide electromagentic pulse to wipe out all electronics in about two years. They fear the event, they fear for their lives, and they fear "the government" is covering up the truth. Sure, people claim that they are scared of imminent death, but is that the root cause of the force that is fear? I see people react with fear to passive, non-threatening things all the time -- particularly to "challenging" works of art, and, of course, to abstraction. And anything in the cosmos is also an abstract idea, in the sense that it is out of the realm of our immediate experience. But why does it follow that the response is fear? Is it that all fearful people think communication of any sort is an expression of a belief system, and therefore an inherent challenge?
This morning I encountered a man who challenged me on my "belief" that we are all made up of atoms. "Don't believe it" he said, "you are made of the spirit!" I honestly had no idea what to say. It is tempting to dismiss his challenge as evidence of his ignorance, but if he does not regard himself as ignorant, what point is there in me claiming so? What is more interesting to me it the idea that he is threatened somehow (or his belief system is destabilized somehow) by...atoms. If you want to change motion, you need a force which will act on an object and cause acceleration. But if you want to maintain the status of a belief, is a forcefield of fear required? I wonder about that as the Catholic Church sex-abuse story grows globally, and as the impact of Arizona's new immigration status law plays out here...and as veil-wearing women in Yemen protest in favor of the practice of granting men child brides. The same atom-fearer mentioned above also believes that rape is "not always bad" since it is God's prerogative that sperm is destined for a unique egg, and man must follow God's law without question.
What is it like to live a life of submission? And if you submit to life within that forcefield of fear which is required to maintain your beliefs about weird art, or African American Presidents, or alien-guided killer planets...can you really ever view yourself as a free human being, as free as any of the rest of us?