Monday, 13 August 2012

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Right?

I am a herpetologist. I have been herpetologically inclined from the morning of 6 April 1958. That was a date that I shall always remember, but it is not my point now. As a person who has had a deep passion for reptiles for more than 50 years (my god, when did THAT happen? 50? ME??) I am very aware that many, possibly most other people either do not like reptiles or loathe them. Also, most cases of such loathing come from fear, a fear taught to youngsters when they are impressionable and not yet able to observe the beauty and usefulness of reptiles for themselves.

What happens when a person is in a position where she can meet a reptile? I've had many opportunities to be the facilitator at such meetings, and what is most gratifying is that the human usually enjoys the experience. More than once I have had to go chase the person to retrieve the reptile! Fear can be overcome. Fear is the enemy, not the reptile. Learn to at least control your fear and you can achieve heights you would not think possible.

So now I ask this: Why are people afraid of cemeteries?

People we knew and loved, or at least liked, are the residents of those neatly tailored lawns for the departed. People like my wonderful grandfather, whom we lost to kidney disease in 1963. He lived long enough for me to really know and remember him, but not nearly so long as I'd have liked. Am I to think that he, gentle soul that he was, now has zombies as neighbors? If so, I am also confident that he would, in his afterlife, be as much my defender as ever he was in life. No, I'm not afraid of zombies.

The good 19-year old family friend, the one who had been the local grocer's delivery boy. He volunteered to go to Vietnam during the war there, worked his way up to sergeant, and died on some numbered hill, fighting a rearguard action until all his men had made it to the evac choppers. When he was on leave, he went to Thailand and sent me several photos of the snakes he found at the markets. He passed on 1n 1965, but I never worried that his ghost would roam around some cemetery waiting to scare the liver out of some poor visitor.

My best friend died from a cerebral edema in 1973, and my favourite professor in 1977. There were many other good friends, teachers, and family who left this world, including my parents in 1994 and 1996. Not all our beloved need be human, either; my dear dog and very long-time companion passed away in 2009, and another this past February.

I still miss them all, and I remember them and think about what I remember so those images stay with me until it's my time for a label, a jar, and a place on a museum shelf. But do I ever fear any of them? No. I cannot. I see a cemetery as a place where, sometime after their journey has ended, the souls of our friends, our family, and our pets have been laid with reverence and loving fondness. Sure, my dear lost ones are not in a single cemetery, nor even in the same state. But when I have to pass a cemetery, or visit one with someone I care about, I never thing about zombies and vampires and other horrors grown from our near-universal fear of death.

What do I see? Mainly, just a quiet place, where the scenery and location are peaceful, and we can remember and enjoy what memories are evoked. And if I don't get to see my grandfather or professor or parents or dogs, I tend to see those of someone else. So far, not one of them has tried to eat my brain, phlebotomize my jugular vein, or dismember me. Why, even the departed dogs have never peed on my foot!

Just something to think about as Halloween approaches. What if for once our costumes evoked pleasant images from good times with those no longer with us. Sure, you may still wear funny costumes and children may still extort treats from the neighbors. Maybe All Hallows Eve would be a nice time to remember those who were once near and dear to our hearts. And if you must go visit a cemetery, say "hello" to the locals on behalf of their loved ones who could not get there today.

Every time we learn how to destroy even a wee bit of fear, we get a wee bit closer to a world where people will have less to fight about and where our mental health as a species will be free of a little more stress. In my humble opinion, of course!

Link to herpetology books that I recommend.

No comments: