Monday, 11 January 2016

On Realising My Deepest Fear

As humans, we are all bound by a set of mutual emotions and feelings, but one of the strongest and most harrowing of these has always been fear. Fear changes us - it brings out new, more vulnerable sides to us, and often admitting our fears feels like exposing a weakness.

Yet it's far from a weakness - admitting to and opening up about a fear, something that makes us so vulnerable, that terrifies us to our core, or even just startles us enough to put us off guard - is actually quite a strong thing to be able to do.

Of course, there are both irrational and rational fears, some stronger than others. Irrational fears are the ones that seem the most illogical, but often we just can't help having them. I've got quite a few of them - spiders, heights, being underwater, bellybuttons (probably the most irrational of all, I can't put into words how much I hate them). It was only recently, however, that I realised just what my deepest fear of all is.

For the longest time, I would openly and always say my biggest fear was failure - it's something that scares us all. Never succeeding in the things we most desperately desire, never achieving our goals, or reaching the heights of success we long for. But it struck me that my deepest fear - despite its slight irrationality, is in fact, death.

I'm kind of ashamed to admit that this realisation only struck me upon waking up to the news of David Bowie's death this morning. I've lost people before, but only when I was much younger, and concepts like death are harder to process, so we shove them to the back of our innocent minds until it goes away. I believe we process it all a little differently as we age. 

But this morning, upon reading about Bowie, my eyes instantly welled up and I cried at every Instagram photo posted in tribute, every song reference, every time someone posted a beautifully written article in his honour, or even his own glorious words - I cried, and cried, and cried. This beautiful, wonderful and incredible man was gone, lost forever - and the strangest thing of all was that I'd never even met this person.

Death is a funny thing, and I'd almost bet it's one of the things we humans fear the most. We just seem to ignore it, and express total shock whenever it inflicts upon our lives, as if we'd never imagined it could happen to another person. We celebrate birthdays in the face of death, just to spite it. We like to pretend it doesn't happen, and when it does, it shakes us to our very cores. It leaves us feeling hollow and empty inside, hopeless and lost, completely and utterly vulnerable and weak. As morbid as it sounds, it's true that the only certainty in life is death, and to be so afraid of it seems so utterly illogical, yet here we are. Petrified.

To lose an icon like Bowie, and so young, so quickly, is possibly most terrifying. It's a weird thing to admit, but often we don't link these legends as human, like we would ourselves. We look at people like Bowie, and almost presume they're immortal, they're some kind of higher super-being, because that's how it feels to look at them. They're the kind of people you'd always assumed would be around forever - so when they're taken so suddenly, it shocks us even more. We may never have come close to meeting these people, but feel such a deep and emotional connection to them, through their carefully crafted and ingenious art-forms. It gives us something to cling to when they're gone, something to remember them through, to reminisce on their brilliance. 

I don't quite know what it is, but it's very hard to look at modern celebrities and feel the same thing. They seem so much more human than the music and film legends of the past, so much more real - perhaps, is it the rise and intimacy of social media, that makes them so much more... normal?

The Internet's a strange old thing in situations like this - where people can come together in their thousands and share heartbreaking messages of condolences, writers write words dripping in sorrow, artists draw mournful images in tribute, and it all gets shared across this incredible invisible force that pulls us all together, day after day.  You can feel the atmosphere and mood change across this weird invisible thing, and feel a world of hearts collectively break within every new tweet or status. The mourning of artists, of celebrities, legends and icons alike, has never been quite so close as it is in our modern wifi-fuelled day, and it truly is quite phenomenal.

Talking about death both scares me and fascinates me - I love hearing the theories of others, of friends, as we sit around in cosy beds past 2am, tossing ideas of incarnation, the afterlife, the endless black void, back and forth, trying to both terrify and comfort each other in the strangest of ways. We talk about these eerie and unimaginable things until it freaks us out into silence. A lot of humanity's ideas and theories surrounding death come from religious views and teachings, so it's all the more fascinating to learn the theories of someone without traditional religious beliefs. Where do we go from here? Is it the following-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel cliché we see so often in cartoons and movies? Is it an endless black void, an abyss of nothingness? Do our spirits escape our bodies and roam the earth, desperately trying to finish whatever they need to do, put things right, in order to move onto the next world?

It's endlessly fascinating, but also the kind of discussion that gives you shivers, and leaves you feeling cold and lost and in desperate need of a hug.

As a fear, it's kind of a tough one to conquer, because it's so inescapable. The only thing we can do is realise it, be more open about its inevitability in all of our lives, and accept it. Read, talk, write about it. Embrace life while we can, and worry about the end later. Relish in every moment of life. I guess it's the only way.
Ciara Pollock © . Design by FCD.