The Whippet #57: Spooooooooooooky


Morning friends! A mini issue because I have a freelance deadline, but since it's Halloween you have to call it a DEADline and do a spooky laugh.

I guess while we're on the theme:

There's no such thing as "fear of the unknown"

You will hear, from very intelligent people, that fear of the unknown not only exists but is the secret driving force behind many of our decisions.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
― H.P. Lovecraft

“The most destructive force against human progress isn’t natural disasters, disease or global warming…it’s our own fear of the unknown.”
― The first blog that came up when I googled this phrase to make a point

Xenophobia can be explained by fear of the unknown, they say. Fear of death, fear of change — all just fear of the unknown in disguise. And that humans have exerted huge amounts of effort into putting order and predictablity into life. I read recently that industrialised agriculture, which forces crops into predictability, is about removing the fear of uncertainty.

When I was a kid, I overhead my mum and her friends talking about my fear of the dark (I was, at the time, hiding in the hallway behind the living room door, too scared to walk down the dark hallway to my bedroom). They said it was really fear of the unknown.

It wasn’t. It was fear that a monster would grab me from behind and hurt me. Knowing there definitely was a monster waiting in the dark to hurt me would have removed all of the uncertainty and none of the fear.

Similarly: we are not uncomfortable with the general uncertainty of food production, we’re afraid of famine. Say you get a promising job offer in a distant city. But you’re nervous about accepting it. Are you afraid of the unknown, or are you afraid, say, that you won’t make any friends there, all your old friends will forget you, and the job will turn out to suck?

I’m afraid of death, not because I’m not sure what will happen afterwards, but because I’m pretty sure that’s the end of my consciousness and my ability to ccommunicate with the people I love, and I hate that. H.P. Lovecraft was afraid of black people, Jews, Syrians, Spaniards and Italians, among others, and he gets off pretty damn lightly calling that “fear of the unknown”.

Uncertainty can make a fear worse, because often what you imagine might happen is way worse than what is at all likely to happen. But the thing you’re afraid of is still that catastrophic, exaggerated, worst case scenario, not the uncertainty.

It’s hard to categorically disprove, because uncertainty is a common presence in everything you’ve been afraid of. But that’s just because, by definition, you’re only afraid of things that might happen in the future (even if it’s only a few seconds in the future) and there is always uncertainty about future events! The actual fear is the very obvious thing you’ve been worrying about — probably some form of suffering, humiliation or abandonment.

A last note: There are people in this world who deal with fear by making the thing they’re afraid of happen. Maybe your girlfriend is amazing and you’re so afraid of losing her that you’re afraid all the time — so you cheat on her, scuttling the relationship yourself.

That’s one of the few times someone seems to have been more afraid of uncertainty than of the thing itself.

But I would argue they were still afraid of the thing — of losing their girlfriend — they were just unable to manage that fear. They hated being afraid so much that they would rather be regular-miserable than fearful-miserable. There’s still no reason to bring uncertainty into it.

PS I put this up on Medium in case anyone wants to share it.

PPS. I have a vague idea that Carl Jung is behind this unchallenged truism, but this is a Mini Whippet so you'll have to get mad at him yourself.


Useful word: velleity


Pronounced: vuh-LEE-uh-tee
Means: a wish or desire not strong enough to actually act on in any way

Why pubs are called things like "The Rose & Crown" and "The Prancing Pony"

This is super obvious but I didn't figure it out till recently. It's because most people were illiterate. These are clear images that easily tell you the name without you having to know your letters. It's also why you might hear "at the sign of the [pub name]".

Image on the left is the sign above 3 Wise Monkeys, a pub in Sydney, and incidentally the place I had my first official alcoholic drink after turning 18.

What. WHAT. You remember this film?

Will Smith plays a magical negro who helps Matt Damon get his golf mojo back?

It's based on the Bhagavad Gita. That is, the 1500+ year old Hindu epic that Hare Krishnas will sometimes try and give you. Roughly speaking, it's the story of Krishna (under the name of Bhagavan. BHAGAVAN.) helping Arjun get his battle mojo back. Matt Damon's character's name is Randulph Junah. R. Junah.

That's all from me today, full Whippet next fortnight I promise!