Fear! That gripping of the inner organs. Fear of past losses, now consumed, yet pain keep them alive to freshly torture anew. Fear of the future, assuredly all about getting weaker, sore, deformed, degenerate: “old man look at my life, I am a lot like you were”, sang Neil, Neil “Young” of all people. Aging: death, slow and cruel. Human life starts as a comedy, to end as a tragedy, alleviated by torpor. With pain always.
So much for the strategy of going around the difficulty by getting higher. And the night was falling, in the shade of giant peaks. My companion, suggesting engineering to cross nevertheless, started to drag huge tree trunks, in the apparent hope of somehow reaching the other side, be it only symbolically. The torrent swallowed one of them. Older, wiser, better read, and more measured, I recognized defeat, and that a long, ignominious retreat was preferable. Preferable to a desperate task, which could only end with death, flushed down the mountain, in ice-cold tons per second of liquid bricks. A guaranteed stupid death. Many an experienced mountaineer has died in mountain streams.
In Patagonia, one of the most beautiful peaks, Aiguille Poincenot, is named after a French guide who was swept by a stream during the first approach by mountaineers of the Fitz Roy range (his bereaved comrades succeeded the first ascent of Fitz Roy). I had close calls with raging mountain rivers at least twice before, once in France, once in Bolivia (where I got carried away for a few seconds).
Human philosophy is not just about accepting death, because we have no choice, anyway. Human wisdom is prone to redesign death as something milder, happening later, and with less pain.
The raging torrents blocking us, we had to accept retreat without any further loss of time. Only then could hope to go back to civilization, a road, with some vague daylight left.
Fear can be debilitating. When fear takes control of human beings, they can crawl, trembling, down a mountain side, shaking so much gripping the life saving holds becomes difficult.
Are great depression and suicidal moods a form of fear? Certainly so. Just as the mountaineer, shaking with fear, can lose grip, and thus life, so can everybody, unable to endure the pain, even the pain of fear, loses grip on one’s life.
Fear. Fear, not just of what will be, but fear of what could be. Existential fear. And why not? What will be is terrible: a personal apocalypse. Only imperial happiness can colonize it, and throw it, laughing, down the abyss.
Imperial happiness can colonize fear. Less noble passions can even abolish it entirely (Jihadists live off this). Thus the seduction the basest passions exert. The will to power, the urge to blood, mayhem, or silly, but all consuming adventures, such as so-called romance, or sex, are mighty medicines against fear.
Passions, in the instant, can erase a heavy heart… If they are overwhelming enough (otherwise, despondency does it). So there is more to war than happenstance, or a few deranged individuals. War is a way to escape fear, even pain. At least, for a while.
As he died, Socrates asked that a sacrifice be made, as if he had been cured from a disease. Did Socrates view life as a disease? How wise is that?
Life is a disease when one views it for what it seems: from some fun, to pain, handicaps, suffering, death.
The engineered equivalent of endo cannabinoids to make one forget about the incoming pain are all passions, strong enough to forge another universe where our actions reign supreme, as directed by us.
Yet, in the mountains, and elsewhere, fear can be a good adviser, a teacher and friend. Fear teaches self-reliance, and the will to power. Experiments show that, if, to get food, a rat has to go through a particular pain, it stresses out much less when it is the one to decide when to administer the pain.
We have to learn to live along fear, as if it were a friend. We have to learn to live happily, not just in spite of pain, but because of pain.
Nietzsche wanted us to mysteriously love the “eternal return of the same”. As if there was such a thing. Instead we have to embrace the eternal return of the universe, never quite the same, complete with fear, and pain, and how to dominate them, with happy self-reliance, as much as we can in all ways, most of them spiritual and intellectual. Not the least because we, and our entourage, will feel better that way.
Fear ought to be used as a passport to a better world. That’s why many dangerous sports blossom. And that’s why we did not try to cross that torrent.
Oh Humanity, hear!
Pain, suffering, dread and fear,
Do not neglect them, horrors,
Often, they are teachers,
Mean, cruel, pitiless, atrocious,
Yes. But what else?
How else to be dragged to spurn,
The gravest errors and worst moods?
Ultimately cruel, fear and pain can be,
Yet all too often, ultimately kind!
Fear Is A Spur,
Lest we be tortured by remorse,
Paralyzed by terror,
A pain without a life