Everyone’s biggest fear is appearing foolish. Comedians take this fear to the edge of the cliff and push us off. Other entertainers use shock value stretching tolerance to the limits. Yawn. I wonder how far an entertainer can push the edges of any topic leaving the audience gasping and clutching at their sides over a punchline. What we secretly find hilarious, everything from farts to slipping on a banana peel, to an erupting pimple on a first date is fair game for comedy writers and weary folks.
We’re terrified of losing control. Advertising capitalizes on our trepidation around being ignorant or not cool as American society stays in a seeming state of perpetual adolescence. We fearful fools hand over our hard earned dollars for products promising youth, beauty, thinness, rock hard abs, admiration, status, enlightenment, lower interest rates, and enormous wealth. Everyone has those little products tucked away underneath the bathroom sink or in the refrigerator with the vitamins. It’s the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
Late night talk show hosts ridicule everybody. If you make everyone else laugh then nobody will focus on you. Executives know that tapping into our terror will pay. We are the phobia fools because we’re all about anti-aging, showing off bikini bodies, owning the newest product, erasing fine lines and wrinkles, and never being stupid. Flawless!
Attend a meeting with the most highly educated or erudite types and you will hear souls crack for fear of not being intelligent.
Apprehension and stress is ever-present even for those of us in secure lifestyles. We might be working normal jobs or unemployed. We might be living out a big adventure or living predictable, perfect, schlocky lives. The theme of dealing with dread is the realm of writers, great actors, directors, shrinks, clergy people, film crews, and cynics.
One time while browsing through family photos, my high profile cousin Stan* quickly pushed aside a picture of his father clowning for the camera. Almost in horror he wanted nothing to do with levity or silliness as if to say, “I’m too important to be silly. I don’t want to be associated with the ridiculous. I work too hard for that. Get this out of my sight.” Even though our highly esteemed uncle had passed on, my cousin’s grim thought of being less than perfect caused great alarm. The idea of wilted dignity caused him distress even in a private setting. I felt sorry for him for a moment.
So what are we all so afraid of? Rejection? You’re right. People kill over it. Being dumped into the lower realms of the financial food chain? It’s possible.
I know I’m vain in the sense that nearly six decades of living are showing on my face. Who cares? I already know I take myself way too seriously. It’s only because I’m not Type A. I’m totally Type B, a scanner, and very concerned about social and political issues. My husband and grown kids tip me off when I’m being too stiff or opinionated, thank goodness. But of course, I’m always right.
The fear of being silly photo event taught me a big lesson. I’m grateful for the ridiculous. When we meet St. Peter at the pearly gates, if there is such a thing, the high salaried folks ain’t gettin’ in ahead of the Walmart clerk.
“The planet doesn’t need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” The Dalai Lama
*Name, gender and relationship changed to protect the innocent.