Everyone is afraid of something. Some fears are rational; some are irrational. Fears of heights, spiders, close spaces, germs, the dark and lightening storms are some of the fears that many people are aware they have and willing to admit to.
But there is another fear, one that is much more personal and fundamental, and it's the one common fear every human shares. Whether it's acknowledged or not, from the moment we are born, to the moment before we depart from a state of "living" we all live tormented by this one single fear above and beyond all others.
It's the fear of being completely forgotten.
While some people enjoy their "personal space" to the extent that they might be considered by their more social counterparts as a "recluse", a "hermit" or just plain "anti-social", the fact is, no one wants to have lived and died and have no one morn them, no one remember them and no one care that they ever existed.
Humans are by nature pack animals. We live in groups. We travel in groups. We pair off and often reproduce to create a living assurance that our genetic code- a strain of our physical characteristics and personality- will remain after we have passed on to whatever comes after we die. We arrange events and activities to interact with people we've never met and those we've known for many years.
Holidays celebrate the 'coming together' of people. Indeed, nearly every event and holiday around the world is designed to gather large or small groups of people together, and typically, in some way, to cast remembrance on those who have lived and died before us, as well as marking and rejoicing in our own birth and life.
In some cultures, honoring or even worshiping ones ancestors is a way of life. Most cultures pass down history books, oral historical stories or pictorial displays of past generations. In ancient and modern times those in positions of power have often erected statues, monuments or elaborate shines to themselves, in a sort of reassurance that the future will know they left their mark upon this earth.
One of the last "Seven Wonders of the World": The Pyramids- an undertaking of incredible magnitude- were made from the blood, sweat, death and taxed hundreds of millions of people- partly in the honor of "gods", but realistically, in the memory and glory of the pharaohs or rulers who oversaw their creation.
People who played significant roles in documented human history have had busts mass-produced in their likeness; enormous life-like paintings have been painstakingly created and preserved at the cost of other's lives; buildings, streets, structures, weapons, tools, scientific discoveries, astrological wonders, forms of transportation and geographical locations have all been named after them. Whole religions are based upon the life and thought processes of those who have died centuries ago.
Chances are your first or middle name (and certainly your last name) is the same as one of your ancestors- recent or distant, it's still a nod to the past people who breathed the air around us, touched the landscape in which we dwell, and then fertilized the earth we walk on with their remains.
Most people don't enjoy living alone for long. They get room-mates; leap frog from one relationship to another; invite family or friends to stay with them or have children.
Some parents, even after their child have reached adulthood, try to tempt their children to remain at home- perhaps largely because they are afraid their child will become busy with their own life and the parent will lose that role of "needed nurturer and authority figure". They're afraid their child will fly from the nest and forget about them.
Some people help fulfill this need for companionship by acquiring pets- other creatures they can bestow love and attention upon, and by varying degree receive love and attention from.
Be it a persistent front and center worry, or a nagging thought that sneaks out in the quiet dark of night to send tremors of periodic anxiety, somewhere there is a latent worry about living the last few years of their lives: sick, lonely and forgotten. No one to call them or check on them to make sure their basic needs are being met. No one to send them mail, to celebrate the changing of the seasons with. To talk to and laugh with. To share life with.
We all ache to bask in the glow of affection, enjoy the comforts of companionship and to feel needed and wanted by others. Everyone wants to share their own version of what it is to be alive, with others; to have their feelings, thoughts and desires validated and reciprocated. We all want to be challenged, inspired and touched by others.
Physical touch is actually something that people cannot live without. Our bodies were designed to enjoy the sensations of things- including another person's skin- interacting with the millions of neurological sensors covering every square inch of our skin.
Studies have shown that babies in orphanages and hospitals (typically in less developed countries) who went for prolonged periods of time without being touched and physically interacted with by another person were not as healthy, did not grow up to be as intelligent or as comfortable socially, and in some cases died as infants from "unexplainable reasons" (often chalked up as SIDS- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
From phones, letters, pagers, fax machines, the Internet, emails, journals, messenger pigeons, Morse code (named after it's creator Samuel F. B. Morse), bulletin boards, newpapers, fliers, books, magazines, bill boards, and a multitude of other methods, we are all reaching out to others. Wanting to be acknowlenged. Accepted. Wanted. We all want to blend into the crowd sometimes, and other times to stand out.
We all want to be a part of this social, constantly changing world around us- surrounded by people who support and care about us. People who we feel we can influence, help, benefit and develop lasting ties with. People who will nurture us when we're troubled; comfort for us when we're ill; celebrate with us when we're joyful; and remember us when we've died.
Then, we don't have to be as afraid of the unknown called death, and we can more fully appreciate the wonder of life.
[MySpace Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008]