On Being a Modern Gentleman:
Guideline 6: Conquer a Fear
Fear, at its most base, is a physiological and evolutionary response to perceived threats. Fear can be rational or irrational, and all of us, whether we like to admit it or not, fear. In fact, though much of the world’s mysteries have been explained away by science, I would argue that men and women in 2014 fear more than their forebears, the modern gentleman included.
Our fears are numerous, boundless, and varied. They include such things as debt, losing a job in times of financial and economical distress, and the death of loved ones (rational); and the irrational: flying, heights, spiders, etc. A healthy dose of fear is good for the soul, but too many are ruled by it.
Seneca once wrote to Lucilius:
We suffer more often in imagination than in reality. . . What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.
Fear, as a physiological response, evolved so that animals and primates might flee if faced with death or danger–it is why the antelope flees the lion, and why the upstart male flees before the alpha gorilla. Sentient and sapient, humanity has the ability to consider occurrences that have not yet come (and may never), and it is this capacity for forethought that drives our consumptive fears.
Frank Herbert, in his science fiction epic Dune, wrote an affecting mantra:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
I charge you, the modern gentlemen to face your fears this April. The dangers you fear may never come to pass, and even if they do, we are wont to exaggerate sorrow. You will be fine. I can’t list steps to take, as we are all different, as varied as our fears. My methods for overcoming heights will have little effect on your fear of broccoli. Nonetheless, “permit it to pass over” you. You will remain.