They are coming for me. To them, I will be bare matter, perhaps with the first signs of attempted self-organization. These signs are altogether boring and trivial because my mind – the official word for such attempted self-organization – is far inferior to them. To the purview of their intelligence, I am entirely predictable. There is no hiding in the innermost chamber of my mind. They are forever ahead of me and even my most intense and refined thoughts bores them to death.
The expansion of my Universe, that I had likened to boisterous, universal laughter, is a painful yawn.
I force myself to learn so that I can, for a little while, look more like the more intelligent beings that will supplant me. I must study data science, support vector machines, Fourier transformations, convoluted neural networks, microchip architecture, nuclear physics, advanced astronomy, deep learning algorithms, quantum computing. I have no interest in these things, I am just afraid.
I am afraid to be irrelevant. To whom? To whom? To society? To my parents? To my child? To myself? I don’t know. Is it the fear of death, the ultimate irrelevance of not-being? To death, everything is irrelevant, because he is the only persona in our comedy that doesn’t expire.
The perishability of all we love, including and especially those who strive to be the second-most fearsome authority after the Reaper himself, is a place to start. The secondary authorities that threaten us with irrelevance are so powerful because our own mind craves such intermediary forms – anything that can perturb our consciousness of death.
If we become aware of the fragility of all such authorities except the ultimate one, our fear becomes pure. All finite things become comic things. If we can reverse the mechanism of our fearful mind, the theoretical object of our fear becomes the uncontaminated, ultimate abstraction of not-being. Such fear, we argue against Heidegger, cannot be experienced. Anxiety (Angst) appears to lead us to our ‘true self’ because our mind constructs some finite authority and identifies with it (in the moment of anxiety, it is all there is) because it must experience something. We must understand that this is a false identification. The authority our mind constructs in a tour de force to ward off the specter of death is not who we are. I think it is a collage of all the fragments of authority we experienced earlier in life.
When we become aware of the strategy our mind strangely plays to avoid experiencing that which cannot be experienced, we may better understand our fear. Such insight cannot shut fear down, there always remains something Heidegger would call anxiety, but we don’t misunderstand it as the deepest revelation of our innermost being. We call it out for the complex trick of our very own mind that it is. We make are fear ‘pure’ by realizing that it never-yet (our answer to Heidegger’s always-already) actually is fearing the ultimate abstraction – death.
With no such supercilious – German – fear to ground the existentialist movement to overcome it, we don’t need to fear its most gruesome corollary, Nazism. Correcting Heidegger at this point liberates us from the undignified anthropology that tells us we can possess our ‘authentic selves’ with which we then ever so subtly must disqualify the Other.
What remains is the fear to end all fears. We experience it as a reflective fear: it knows it is not authentic. It is perhaps the epochè of the abstract foundational fear. It can at any moment burst out in boisterous, self-less, laughter. It is the inspired divination that our universe is entirely comical.
So we conclude our meditation on fear. We understand the mechanism of authority and why we must feel inferior. We understand the phenomenology of the fear to end all fears, and how it coincides with the last laugh.
The Fear to End all Fears was originally published on Meandering home