(Updated from a previous post. This is as close to a Halloween post as I’ll get, folks.)
I do not like fear. I honestly hate the physical sensation of it. I do not do horror films or books. The gore gets to me as well. So I stay away from that stuff.
But there’s an interesting paradox with fear in our culture: We are terrified of the actual experience of real fear — for example, if you were in a natural disaster, or an auto accident — and yet, we willingly seek it out — say, on a rollercoaster, or going bungee jumping, or by watching a horror movie.
That duality of natures kind of bothers me, and yet it’s intriguing. As a former psychology major, this was one thing I could never quite understand. We discussed the practical purpose fear serves — like when you need to run away from the impending flood, sabertooth tiger, or faulty rollercoaster. So why do we insist on giving ourselves a simulated heartattack by sitting in a darkened cinema, waiting for the ghost/zombie/monster to jump out at us, and even enhancing the scariness with 3-D glasses?
In my house, there is currently a running obsession with Herobrine. For any of you familiar with/have played/actually live in a biome of Minecraft, you’ll probably be aware of this urban legend/myth/real glitch called Herobrine. It’s basically a sort of evil menace that kind of looks like a regular player, except he’s lurking in the shadows, and making weird things happen in the game, like burning down buildings, or placing redstone torches where no player had put them, or leaving signs with cryptic messages on them (warnings of impending doom?…).
Herobrine has been around since nearly the advent of Minecraft. It’s so common now for players to have “Herobrine sightings” that many people believe most of these were faked by said players. Herobrine has become almost like Bigfoot — there are ongoing discussions in the MC fan communities about whether he’s real, designed by the creators of the game, or a myth perpetuated by mere mortal players.
It happened to my son, White Fang (the Minecraft enthusiast around here). On his server, in creative mode (meaning it was a private account, and there shouldn’t have been other people around), signs started appearing on the island where he was building. The signs were in Swedish as well — and supposedly Herobrine is Swedish.
So, what did White Fang do? Well, after freaking out for a few minutes, he proceeded to — I am completely serious, folks — go to an English-to-Swedish translation website, so that he could leave his own reply signs for “Herobrine.” (The equivalent of “We come in peace.”)
Then he started searching YouTube for videos of “Herobrine sightings”, and trying to figure out how to deal with this odd thing, if it became threatening. Well, now he’s become somewhat of an expert on how to determine if it’s actually Herobrine or not… and he now recognizes the X-Files theme music…and he’s learning the value of not saying things like, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Since we don’t have a lot of access in our house to anything over a PG-13 rating (on purpose), most of these stereotypes of, say, horror movies weren’t something my 13-year-old was really aware of until recently. And while I monitor what he does in his spare time (such as whether the YouTube videos he watches contain certain types of language and graphics), I don’t want to flat out ban him from various aspects of entertainment and media. I don’t want him to become afraid of what he doesn’t understand.
I also want him to believe that the best way to conquer fear is not to give in to it. When I was his age, I tried reading a bunch of books that had a definite creepy twist. I must have been really petrified by them, as I honestly cannot recall any of the titles, or the authors, and I know for a fact that one — involving alien feline and canine species in a centuries-long death battle, and Earth just got caught in the middle — scared me so much that I literally had to close the book not even halfway through…and it took me at least two years to check it out from the library again and finish it.
While there’s something of value to be said for just setting the book aside since it scared me (see above remarks), I was rather proud of myself that I did actually finish reading it later. I discovered which of the alien species was evil, and how the Earth boy helped defeat them and protect his family. And there’s much value in realizing what the protagonist of that novel learned — that sometimes you have to confront your fear to conquer it.
As Bobby said in Supernatural, “Remember, if it bleeds, you can kill it.”
(By the way, I can’t watch Supernatural anymore, either. And I’m okay with that.)
“If a black cat crossed your path…it means the cat had somewhere to go.” — Groucho Marx