“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~Plato
I fear the unknown. That’s my biggest fear. Because anything else I can see coming, even if I can’t necessarily adjust for everything else. But the thing that sneaks up on me, the thing that surprises me, that is the thing that shakes me to the marrow, just thinking about it. I spend so much time trying to anticipate everything that I literally drive myself insane. In that way the anticipation of what cannot be anticipated can sink me before the unknown even shows up. It’s a cyclical fear.
All of the harsh moments in my life have been previous unknowns. There was no build up, no lead in, no time to even catch my breath before they descended swift, sudden, and most times final. I never had enough time to put a name to these unknowns, to pin them to the canvas and start the countdown.
It’s funny about names. The ancient Egyptians believed that for someone to know your real name, your true name, it gave them control over you. Perhaps somewhere far back in my history I come from that same type of heritage because I’ve always felt the exact same way.
When we meet other people usually they see what we look like but we have to introduce ourselves. It’s in that moment before they know our name that we have the greatest singular power in the world, that we are simultaneously everyone and no one at the same time. It is probably one of the biggest unknowns ever, and in that moment before I give my name to another it also sparks that fear. When they know my name, it is like they have a piece of my essence.
But not everything has a name. Not everything can be categorized, can be neatly tucked away in a box, filed away for the future. Too many things are nameless and shapeless, endless reminders that we don’t really have power in this life. These unknowns haunt us like living, breathing specters waiting to expose us to the air where we will shrivel and die, shrieking for an impossible salvation that will not come.
So I fear the unknown. I fear the sudden nature of this life that can take away just as swiftly as it hands out. I fear the power that names have when they come to light, when they are no longer hidden behind artifice. I fear the reality of a life that cannot be scripted, no matter how often I try to put it together piece by piece like a giant puzzle. All of these fears come home to roost. They keep me up at night, waiting, nervous and fractured. They remind me that I am essentially powerless, and that I always will be.
And that’s okay. Life isn’t meant to be scripted. Not every second of every day needs to be planned out, and contingencies set. The best parts of life are lived in the margins, in the unknowns and help shape us for the better, even if we don’t like them at the time. Life is an unnamed masterpiece sitting on a far wall. We just need to move a little closer to make it out.