Halloween: A Festival of Fear

It’s sunset—ghosts, goblins, super heroes, and cartoon characters roam the streets and condominium hallways, searching doorways for treats. One night a year the world turns upside down, masks hide faces, and “scary” is normal. Fear is transformed into ceremony and celebration.

What scares you? A bump in the night, darkness, deep water, shadows under the bed? Or more routine fears—heights, plane flights, snakes, spiders, and clowns? (Are clowns really scary?)

Today, fear is a driving force. If you turn on a 24-hour news network, you would think the world was ending. Ebola, terrorism, ISIS – ISIL, natural disasters. Uninformed viewers will have no idea which direction their final days might come from.

We have irrational fears of many things in life, fears that really don’t make sense in the light of day. Maybe it’s our lingering ancient memories of large, hungry beasts, rampaging humans, or diseases which seem to come from nowhere to kill off our families and friends. Is this why we are so afraid of terrorists and plagues when these things do not directly affect us or our families today?

My fear is that human beings are not proactive—that planning or organizing to neutralize or eliminate a threat is an afterthought. Threats and the fear of threats can become such a political issue that governments make kneejerk reactions with little planning or even an understanding of the roots of the problem. If you don’t understand it, you can’t deal with it.

Fear should be determined by your situation. How vulnerable are you to the threat? If the threat is imminent, determine what can be done, make a plan, and take action.

Over time, we have developed processes to handle our biggest fears—death and uncontrollable natural events—by creating rituals to soothe and calm our souls. Halloween, ancestor worship, and praying to the spirits of nature are ways we have dealt with the shadows and the misunderstood, and religion has blossomed in times of fear as a way to balance out the threat. But it doesn’t solve the problem.

An understanding of the world should not be based on misinformation or our fear of the unknown.

The fear of Ebola is very present in our current media cycle. Ebola is dangerous in many ways—if you come in contact with the fluids of an infected person. But not everyone is infected with the illness, and the spread of the disease can be managed and controlled. We know that we could develop a vaccine if we spent time and resources on creating the drug. What we should be afraid of is not Ebola, but the way we are handling it. Are health care providers prepared? Are containment processes being created and updated? Have we trained staff, have we planned, and have we informed the at-risk population properly? Above all, have we taken fast action to stem the spread of the disease in the countries that are hardest hit by it?

We can celebrate our rituals, have fun dressing up, and we can be better at understanding the world we live in, including the threats and the fears. We can be better human beings, better managers of our world and our lives, when we lift our eyes and see what is around us. Plan appropriate actions and understand why the world has problems—problems that can be solved.

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