13 August 2010

phobias

are weird

Given that I look upon a large measure of religious faith as little more than superstition or, at best, anthropomorphizing the wind or some natural phenomenon, I'm accustomed to seeing people freak out and attribute power and meaning and purpose over things that are in fact "meaningless" (most such meaning and purpose is invented by ourselves anyway, but I'd rather that meaning be something shared or personal rather than externally attributed. It reminds us that we are special to each other, but not because some being or force makes it so). So being afraid of a number is not that far out of the spectrum.

But really? No hotel or hospital rooms, no high rise floors, and so on? That's a bit out of hand. It's one thing when people are taking biblical proclamations out of context or out of their cultural and historical context. That's a little uninformed and obviously somewhat annoying (particularly when it involves death or suffering to be imposed on people). But the correction is simply to point them to read the rest of the context and hope they figure it out from there. I do not imagine that I can sit down someone who takes literally the words in an ancient book as truth and wisdom and convince them that they are misguided by doing so, but I can at least point out some inconsistencies in how they apply it and assume they'll figure something out from there. Most people's brains are wired to look for something like a superstitious or supernatural explanation first anyway and disabusing them of this notion would be extremely difficult at best, and for most, probably impossible or not worth the effort on the part of those of us who don't think that way. But the correction here, when fear is a mere number, is to completely re-train one's brain? It's more like suffering from depression where the mind must recalibrate itself and learn when it needs a nudge out of vicious cycles of negativity or how to create one.

The costs are still real in either case. But at least the one looks like a manageable cure. I'm not about to start down a path that would consign billions of people's belief structures about the nature of the universe to oblivion. That seems like a task well beyond my ability to conceive or conclude in a lifetime. If we can redirect people's unproductive habits to at least following some random sporting or cultural event instead of being terrified of some silly number, I'd be pleased with that as a lifetime achievement.
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