A Blow to the Head

I had a weird experience a couple of nights ago that keeps coming back to me.

I was about to go to sleep for the night when I decided to get a glass of water. I walked out of my bedroom into the hallway and started to get a little light-headed, this happens occasionally for me and I figured it would pass like it always does. Instead, I passed out* and hit my head on the floor. My partner came over to my unconscious body and called my name. I was only out for a couple of seconds and, except for a couple bumps on my head, everything was fine.

I went back to bed and laid down, but I couldn’t help but think about stories I’ve heard about where people go to sleep after a head injury and they die in their sleep. I wasn’t afraid, though, I figured the chance of death was relatively unlikely but if I did die everything would be okay. I really think there are only two scenarios for death, either there is nothing (seems the most likely), or there is something (probably not), and if there is something the odds are pretty good that it’ll all be okay. I was calm and at peace with the idea of never waking up.

I don’t want to die and I’m going to actively avoid death as much as possible, but if something happens I hope I can maintain this peace and comfort. My life has been pretty awesome and I want it to continue, but I don’t feel like I’ve wasted it or that death will be a terrible experience (though, the act of dying could be pretty miserable). Having a fear of the unknown (whether it is death or something much more mundane) prevents us from having new experiences, if our default is “new is probably bad” we limit our options and make our lives much smaller than they need to be.

Life is just too short to fear death.

*I think I passed out because it was my fast day and I had consumed a couple of beers that night, which likely lead to low blood pressure. I already pass out kind of easily (I’ve done it several times while donating blood) and I won’t make that mistake again. I like fasting, but it is something I need to exercise extra caution with. Oh well, live and learn.

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Creepy

Last night we set up our tent in the shadows of an abandoned house in the North Carolina woods. The house was creepy, but it got us wondering, what exactly makes something “creepy”? Why do we get creeped out by certain things?

It seems that thinking something is creepy is related to danger, or at least perceived danger. It is part of the flight or fight response, it gets our body prepped to take on danger. It isn’t just that though; we can easily recognize danger without feeling creeped out. When we bike up to a busy highway we know it is dangerous, but it isn’t creepy. We can even be afraid and not be creeped out.

Perhaps creepiness is when we feel something is dangerous because it doesn’t conform to the way we expect things to be. Horror movies use creepy “monsters” who seem human, but there is something off about them. The “inbred monster” movies such as The Hills Have Eyes have humans who are distorted from years of inbreeding, their eyes and bodies don’t match what we expect and that makes them creepy. And the creepiness can make us afraid, we see it as danger. Occasionally one of the “monsters” turn out to be good, but it takes a while for the protagonists to overcome their assumptions and trust the friendly person.

When someone is acting creepy in a bar (usually a man towards a woman), it is because they are acting in an unexpected way, a way that doesn’t conform to our expectations. And that behavior is read as dangerous. I don’t think this caution is unjustified. In fact, I think it is fairly reasonable to believe that someone who doesn’t conform to social norms in a public place may not conform to them when in private. And when we are talking about situations where one person is particularly vulnerable to another, it is probably prudent to be cautious.

So, what makes an inanimate object like a house creepy? I think the reasoning is similar. When we see an abandoned house falling down or a house that isn’t being kept up we see it as creepy, it isn’t how we expect things to be. We expect our homes to be manicured in a certain way and to last forever. We don’t want our human possessions to feel the effects of entropy, we believe we can overcome nature and when we see our homes (the most intimate of places) start to collapse it just feels wrong. It is a glimpse into our own mortality, that we too shall collapse someday and our bodies will become dust. Nature will overtake us all. The danger is inevitable, no matter how much effort we put into something it will fail.

We are creeped out because it shows us our future, and our future is death (probably).

Fear and Being Self Centered

For as long as I can remember I’ve had the strange fear that I am the butt of an elaborate inside joke. This fear (or paranoia) plays out in my head telling me there is something wrong with me that I don’t recognize but all my friends and partners are playing a joke on me. Usually I feel like I’m ugly and everyone knows it but pretends it isn’t true to laugh at me behind my back.

When I logically think about it it is ludicrous. I have had (and currently have) beautiful partners and I have some of the most caring and amazing friends who are full of love. There is no reason anyone could or would go out of their way to trick me.

Being a fan of self reflection I have been thinking a lot about why I feel the way I do when evidence points elsewhere. I think it comes down to a strong self centeredness. For me to feel this conspiracy exists I must believe that I am the central figure in many people’s lives. This is just simply not true. My friends do love me but they certainly do not think and act only based on me, and I wouldn’t want them to. My life is not The Truman Show.

I won’t even begin to venture a guess as to whether this is primarily nature or nurture but I have seen others exhibit actions that reflect this paranoia. People say or act as if the behavior, thoughts, and philosophies of another person are a direct reflection or attack on their own life. I don’t think any person has changed their behavior because of me but the spirit of self centeredness lives on.

I’m not sure what to really do about this yet. I think that self reflection is important to recognize the core issue and begin to address it. Recognition certainly helped me stop other negative feelings like jealousy and guilt. Hopefully it will help me continue to improve who I am as an individual by realizing my friends love me and I’m not their core.