The Stuff Of Nightmares: Embracing Your Childhood Fears

I probably ought to begin this post by saying that I love Halloween. And when I say, “I love Halloween”, I mean over-the-top, getting waaay too many bags of candy, dressing up like you’re going to Comic-Con, lighting spooky candles, and refusing to speak to anyone who won’t acknowledge that it’s HALLOWEEN, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.

That being said, it’s also the one time of the year when I get to sit back and reminisce about everything that I’ve ever feared or wondered warily about since I was a wee-one, you know… that stuff. The stuff that causes you to keep one eye open at night when it’s eerily quiet and no one is in the flat, even though all you want to do is sleep. The stuff that makes you fear dangling a foot or a hand over the bedside because something WILL eat it off.

Science has come a long way over the last few hundred years. And what’s amazing is that we did it all with the same brains that have been in our heads since the beginning of humanity. Sure, we’ve upgraded a bit— sort of like owning an iPhone and finally downloading the newest iOS with all of the new screen changes, performance capabilities, and updated Siri functions— but the basic functions remain the same. We’ve gone from gathering berries to inventing the airplane to building up a worldwide internet and beyond. The same brain that came up with the idea that the world wasn’t flat and that the earth revolves around the sun also introduced the idea and eventual implementation of a remotely-operated Mars Rover.

It takes a hearty chunk of Humble-Pie to admit that we don’t know everything, or at least as much as we’d like to. There are so many unresolved theories and notions today that still leave our minds in knots: can anything in the universe travel faster than light? Do black holes simply chew up and spit out the laws of physics? Can certain animals process information the way that humans do? Do we really have a “sixth sense” that allows us to perceive events before they happen?

Mixed in with the jumbled tangle of human consciousness is something that we somehow forget or force ourselves to leave behind as we age– what else is really out there?

Surely, as any science nerd will tell you, the Universe is bigger than you can imagine. The grand scale of the Cosmos is so vast that we can’t even begin to understand it. We can calculate numbers and plot how rapidly it’s expanding and it’s still near impossible to relate to someone just how big it is. There are billions of galaxy clusters in this Universe and within those clusters individual galaxies made up of trillions of stars and star systems… and within those, a numberless amount of planets and moons and objects yet to be discovered. At least ONE of those planets must contain life. Hard to wrap your head around if you haven’t taken the time to let it digest.

Life comes in many different forms: perhaps, somewhere out there, there is a galaxy with a star with a small system that contains a little blue planet like ours. And maybe the “aliens” look like frogs or egg-headed Martians from the old space-movies, or maybe they look like us to a certain extent. Either way, it means one thing: we are not alone.

With that in mind, I’ll present you with a quote from the BBC’s Being Human that, I think, sums up our “silly”, “irrational”, “childish” fears quite accurately:

Everyone has had moments in their life that they can’t explain. Everyone has some sort of ghost story or frightening moment that they don’t enjoy retelling. Maybe sometimes we can rationalize it away or explain it to ourselves as something we think we can understand. The scary part isn’t what happened or what we saw or heard, but the fact that we can’t explain it.

Maybe someday we’ll learn that “ghosts” are actually life-forms from some parallel reality that accidentally touched with ours and, for the briefest of moments, we saw something vague through the skin of the Universe. Maybe it’s more sci-fi and weird than that and the creeping sensation you get on the back of your neck is akin to The Silence from Doctor Who, life forms who came here a long time ago and have harnessed the ability to edit themselves from peoples’ memories—beings who have existed “as long as there’s been something in the corner of your eye, or creaking in your house or breathing under your bed or voices through a wall….”

The point is, as logical and understandable we think our world is… it isn’t. The Universe is big and beautiful and intricately complex. What makes you think that we know everything and have seen everything? We’re so quick to shut down children’s beliefs of scary witches and ghosts and aliens that it’s degrading. Children are intelligent. When a child sees something, they tell you exactly what it was. No frills, no elaboration. We have become very used to laughing off their ideas of fantasy that we forget we were them at one point. We’ve convinced ourselves of our own lies because the truth is too frightening. I’m certain that there is an explanation for everything and perhaps the explanation is more complex than we could have dreamed. For every scary notion there is an articulate truth to them; science geeks know this. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are things in our reality that don’t make sense because we haven’t discovered them yet, at least not really. Maybe we just don’t want to.

Halloween gives us the opportunity to look back at things in our lives that are weird and wonderfully frightening and remember what it was like, in that moment, when something scared the bejeesus out of you. It allows you the space to remember what it was that made you hide beneath your covers and sweat until you woke up in the morning, cold and slightly shaken. Don’t dismiss your childhood fears; embrace them, at least for a day. Then, after all the candy has been handed out (or most of it— you need to save a few handfuls for yourself, obviously), all the pumpkin candles are melted down, after all the costumes are put away in the back of the closet for next year (or Comic-Con), you can fall asleep in your bed, shivering in the chill and spooked by whatever film you watched that made you remember that night in the woods when you thought you saw a hooded figure walk into the darkness. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have forgotten it and it will be back to the daily grind of coffee, microwave soups, paying the phone bill… and making sure not to forget the milk.

Happy Halloween, dear reader.

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