2001 : WHAT NOW?

todd_siler's picture
Founder and director of Psi-Phi Communications
Managing Fear. While remaining inspired to live and learn

How do we manage our deepest fears and avoid falling headfirst into the pit of futility. Clearly, "reality" has a new face to it that our nation will have a very hard time facing, and understanding, much less explaining away. 

As we all struggle to make sense of the surrealness of last week, we may find some comfort in Marie Curie's words which still reverberate in my mind: "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." It's critical we understand the potential of people and cultures living with a certain connectivity. Without this understanding, we're destined to live aching in a state of chronic angst and nausea, like Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist character Antoine Roquentin who was 'horrified at his own existence.'

Aristotle once remarked, "Nature does nothing uselessly." Human nature, on the other hand....In his cynical novel Hocus Pocus, Vonnegut sums up the entire history of 20th century as, "The complicated futility of ignorance." Wouldn't it figure he defined High Art as "making the most of futility." When our sense of reality blurs with futility, I fear we'll experience more of the same migraine dramas as we did on September 11th and 12th and 13th....

I'd like to know how we can honestly address our childrens' fears about the ultimate bogeymen: those invisible, mindless army of suicide bombers who could strike anywhere and at anytime using any number of weapon systems from their pirated arsenal of NBC warfare tools. The possibilities are terrifying to the point of inducing paralysis. For many people today, this terror is as visceral as any flight-or-flight response everyone "knows by heart" because it's something we all feel without even thinking about it.

How do we help ourselves and our families and our local-global community deal with these truly disruptive feelings? Who's confident about using the old "crisis management" techniques to rationally think-things-through in dealing with the most irrational, unthinkable things?

That's what I would really appreciate hearing from any group of thinkers who feel they have a grasp on things and can help us get a better grip on our new reality. It seems we're all clinging to the edges of an unknown world that is shaking even our desire to know it.

Somehow we're going to have to face the emergent reality behind Martin Rees's reflection on those terrors to come from under the horizon of our fears. Because they will come. As Martin and others have noted: 'biological advances will offer new 'weapons' that could cause world-wide epidemics, etc; moreover such catastrophes could be caused by a single individual.' I refuse to abandon my optimism, or succumb to pure pessimism. I believe there is a realistic way of handling this new world of perils and risks. But we're all going to have to think, work, live and act together very differently than we're currently doing. And if we choose not to, then we may as well fold up our tents and lives, and join Albert Schweitzer who saw it all coming when he said: "Man has lost his ability to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth."