So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.
I was watching television the other day and I saw that commercial. You know, the one with the kid and he’s looking up how to give a speech and he stumbles across Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural speech. Yeah that one. I never remember what that commercial is about, I just remember that. It gets me thinking about a monster that paralyzes most people. It’s fear.
Always afraid of the unknown, I spent a lot of time not trying things, not doing things, hiding in the shadows or observing life as it passed by. Never fully reaching for whatever dreams I might be dreaming at the time, fearful of the failure or being made to look foolish for screwing up. It took me many years of my life to finally say I’m no longer afraid as I jumped feet first and wrote my first book.
It was important to stifle the fear, the fear of reviews, of people returning the book because they didn’t like it, the fear of no one discovering all of my hard work and it just sitting there on my shelf collecting dust. I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in one of my favorite episodes called “Fear Itself.” It’s about the gang and their plans for Halloween. They choose to attend a frat party where as you can imagine, living over the hell mouth, the night doesn’t go as planned.
Before the party even started, one unsuspecting frat boy paints the Mark of Gachnar on the floor. He has no idea what this is, just that it’s cool. Once a drop of blood from the character Oz lands on the mark, we see the floor change. In short, Gachnar, the demon of fear was just summoned.
As the party winds up, everyone attending soon faces their darkest fears and it is that fear that feeds the demon. Whether it’s Xander’s fear of being ignored, manifested by his turning invisible to his friends or Oz’s fear of turning into a werewolf and hurting someone (he ends up in a bathtub vehemently trying to convince himself he won’t change), or Buffy, thinking Willow is in trouble, runs to helps but falls into the basement where the dead start coming up from the ground and grabbing at her. She is visited by a dead man who tells her that no matter how much she keeps fighting, she will always end up in the same place. Each member of the Scooby gang runs from the fear. It separates them from each other leaving each of them to deal with their fears alone. As the gang finally realizes that their experiences are all in their mind, they are eventually able to find each other, coming together to conquer the demon.
When we finally see the demon for the first time, we might expect the same manner of demons that we have since the beginning of the show, strong, beefy, scary looking in their stature. Instead we see a demon that is all of four inches, if that. What the demon was able to do was take their basic fears and grow them until it paralyzed the owners. Buffy looks down and sees her opponent for the first time. Seeing what their fear really is, she simply raises a foot and steps on the demon, squashing it beneath her Keds.
We fear the unknown, the unfamiliar and unless we’re willing to face our fears by staring them straight in the eye we can’t squash. But if we say enough to the imaginary fear, we can stomp on them until there’s nothing left.