Sunday, February 12, 2012

The drive of fear

It amazes me how much we just accept because of fear. I often wonder how much of our life is dictated by what we are afraid of.

Today I rode the bus for the first time in New York. Nothing special about it and no reason that it was any different than any other bus that I've taken anywhere else (save in India). In fact the only reason that I ended up on the bus was because the train I was taking to my neighborhood in Brooklyn is under construction, forcing me onto a shuttle (bus) to get to my train stop.

Since I had never been on the bus in New York and am completely unfamiliar with the city I was forced to take out my ear buds and pay full attention to where I was in order to avoid missing my stop. Seated two rows in front of me was a young man listening to music. As I looked around I noticed that most other riders were also plugged in to their various music devices. But what made that young man seated two rows away special was the volume at which his music was playing. It was so loud that I could not only identify what songs were playing but could actually understand all the individual lyrics of the songs. The older woman sitting directly next to him sat in silence, not daring to say anything to the guy blaring his music for all to hear.

What amazed me most was that as I looked closer I noticed that the jerk was actually wearing earphones, yet the music was still blaring out for all to hear. As I looked around the bus again I noticed just how many others were also listening to music; there must have been at least a dozen and a half others plugged in. Yet it was only this one guy who was playing his music so loud that I could hear it clearly from two rows back.

And no one said anything. Not me. Not the lady next to him. No one. Why? Clearly I wasn't the only one who could hear the music and I'm sure that I wasn't the only one annoyed with the noise. But yet I like everyone else sat silently and just put up with the disturbance.

Ultimately it came down to fear. Who was this guy? Would he severely over-react to the request to turn down his music? Was it REALLY worth finding out, fighting or worse? Clearly the answer is and was no. But what was the reality of something much worse happening other than a tongue lashing from the jerk? Not much. But it was enough for me to sit and stew in silence while the music continued.

It made me wonder... How much of our lives is dictated by fear, whether real or not? The "worst case scenario" of the punk with the loud music was indeed real and grave. And for the inconvenience of the music it wasn't really worth the risk. But what in life is? Where do we draw the line? Where do we say "Yes, there is a risk. But I will not stand for this."

What if instead of fearing the worst, instead of fearing failure we embraced the fact that the universe conspires for our success? What if our lives weren't driven by our fears? Would people chase their dreams? Would we chase after what truly makes us happy instead of just doing what is safe? Would we become creative writing majors instead of business ones? Would we dress the way we love to and not fear how others would judge us? Would we travel to places deemed unsafe, explore our inner selves that might not be "normal", or chase after what we really desire though we may never attain it?

We shouldn't live our lives driven by fear. It's not to say that we should blatantly disregard fear, but that we should keep fear as only a part of our decision making. Bad things do exist, real consequences can occur. Maybe we try to do something and we can't, chase after something we never catch, or make unsafe choices that turn out to be bad ones. But we cannot afford to live our lives only doing what is safe, for in the process we will sacrifice what it is that truly makes us happy.

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