We fear what we do not know

Generally speaking, fear arises purely and simply from what is unknown to us. We fear what we do not know, we fear the things we do not understand. Take snakes, for instance. Most people have some deep-seated fear of snakes, and there’s probably an evolutionary reason for this fear. However, as is noted in the study I’ve linked to about the fear of snakes:

We don’t see snakes all the time. There’s really no reason for this overwhelming disgust or hatred of snakes.

So one could probably overcome this basic fear of snakes if one had an understanding of snakes and their behavior and learned that it’s possible to visually identify poisonous ones from non-poisonous ones.

Which brings me to the sharing of the following personal story. Two weekends ago, I was in Napa because a friend of mine was filming and event up there, and I tagged along. Lo and behold, the photographer of this event was frightened when they discovered a snake blocking their path. My friend wanted to capture video footage of the snake, but snakes do move pretty fast when they want to and this one wanted to get away. What do I do? Well, you can see for yourself:

No props necessary.

Yes, that’s me grabbing a wild snake. Yes, that would be a smile on my face. Yes, this did indeed seem like a sane and logical course of action to take at the time.

What compelled me to grab a wild snake? The snarky answer is probably sheer stupidity and a lack of basic survival skills. The truth is that once upon a time I really wanted a pet snake, and I did a ton of research on them in the hopes that if I could present enough information to my parents about how harmless (and super cool!) they are then I’d somehow be able to convince them to allow me to have one in the house. Although my efforts ultimately failed, I succeeded in filling my brain with a bunch of facts about snakes. Fast forward to two weekends ago, and I see the snake. My brain quickly computed it was one of the kinds that couldn’t kill me, so I grabbed it knowing that like all wild animals, they go into fight or flight mode. Seeing as I am significantly bigger than it, the snake clearly would prefer to flee from me because if I wanted to I could have hurt it.** Fighting only really makes sense to wild animals in the instances where they feel like they can come out with less harm to themselves, because losing a fight is a costly venture to themselves. This is why most advice with regards to running into dangerous creatures is to try to make yourself seem bigger and louder than you are, as opposed to fleeing and triggering prey responses. Mother Nature doesn’t make mistakes, if you act like you’re big and scary odds are you somehow are big and scary, which will usually be enough to make most animals wary.

Back to the topic of fear: One of the songs I’m currently in love with is Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said”. Overall, it’s a thought-provoking song, but I adore it because of these lyrics — “Fear is such a weak emotion that’s why I despise it.” Fear is a weak emotion, because it is so easy to be afraid, and to avoid questioning why one fears in the first place. It requires personal strength to want to confront one’s fears, make no mistake there is a reason why we consider doing so a courageous act. It is easy to be complacent with how things are, because it does not require much thought on our end. When we are afraid, we let fear inhibit our abilities to do more, because we become all-consumed with doubt. Until the moment we realize this fact we are our own worst enemy, because we are blindly holding ourselves back.

This is why I personally believe that knowledge is power, and you should never believe you’ve reached a point where you know too much (I’d want to say there is no such thing as too much knowledge, but that’s fodder for a later post). To that end, Socrates was wise indeed in stating that he knew nothing because if you know nothing, you are able to keep your mind open to learning about anything and everything. How that knowledge unfolds in your life and how you apply it is something that you can’t ever predict, as my trip to Napa shows.

**To keep PETA off my back, I assure you that no snakes were harmed in the taking of the above photo or the video that was recorded of it. It was released back into the wild, into some dense foliage which was where it had been trying to escape back into in the first place before I briefly held onto it. It is my hope that it’s gone on to live a happy and productive snake life, none the worse for wear and glad that it survived what it probably thought was a run-in with a predator that would eat it much as it would eat a mouse.

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