A fundamental fear

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly



Outside the one coherent and public spacetime, there is an element of darkness, a field that sets the limits of our reach. Human consciousness stands on the edge staring into oblivion before crossing over the four corners of reality. As it pushes the frontiers of human knowledge, fundamentals of reality dependently co-arise. One may wonder what is left to believe in. After all, what is fundamental? If that which knows, moves and exists in the Universe is part of a resonance chains, everything -- from Titan drifting away to atoms, nematic liquid crystals to sundrops and Phobos to Proxima Centauri -- is fundamentally necessary to create the reality we know.  As we consider the possibility of a theory of everything, won’t it be incomplete if any part of the package is missing?  That which is indispensable to a theory is fundamental to it, writes Aditya Dwarkesh. In an interconnected Universe, how do we know which part is expendable? Aren’t all things, past and present, necessary to create the future?  






We attach different meanings to the word “fundamental”. On the one hand, it means what is necessary. On the other hand, it refers to whatever everything else derives from. Yet, what everything derives from is beyond our understanding. In a discussion written by Mozibur Rahman Ullah, Socrates asks whether the whole is not prior to the part. It remains to be seen how many players take part in the circle of concepts and whether or not some, if not all of them, are co-emergent. 



Serpiente alquimica


The Universe seems to have grown and in time has given rise to observer-participancy which in turn imparts tangible reality to even the earliest day of the Universe. It brings to mind the image of a snake eating its tail. What’s fundamental? The observer or the Universe that is observed? As physicists travel to the deepest level, our framework of reality evolves. One wonders whether ideas and, to a larger extent, theories, are more fundamental than substances and whether abstract notions, such as change, freedom, fear or causality are less or more fundamental than concrete entities?



Wheeler's Universe

Wheeler's Universe


If all starts in the mental realm, nonlocality becomes fundamental too. Time and consciousness are drawing upon a derivative concept of “location” in a relational space. They are intangibles by means of which we interact with the Universe and the source of our true identity. They too are fundamental. And what about change? If change is fundamental, why are we so afraid of it? Caught in the unrelenting movement of life, fears originate from our own intolerance of uncertainty, that is our dispositional incapacity to endure the aversive response triggered by the perceived absence of salient, key, or sufficient information

One fear to rule them all, one fear to find them, one fear to bring them all and in the black box bind them.

Nicholas Carleton


Some fears are based on known facts, others on the unknown. Because of its non-derivative aspect, the fear of the unknown is considered to be a fundamental fear and describes an individual’s propensity to experience fear caused by the perceived absence of information at any level of consciousness or point of processing. Between imagination and reality, we ought to discriminate those fearful and angry voices from the actual danger that a threat may pose.  As we doubt the positive course of events and the gradual decline of passions, we hang on to the past. What probability should we attach to the object of our fears? 

Certain types of probabilities are clearly ‘subjective’, meaning that they can be understood as a description of our own ignorance about the true facts.

Emily Adlam



A Buddhist monk, however, may say that there are three kinds of fears. The first is based on hatred. The second is a reaction to a moral crisis such as the fear we feel when our values are under attack and when we fail to handle self-doubt. The third stems from our human condition, of which old age, sickness, and death are only the manifestations. Of those three fears, it is the first one -- the ego-driven fear -- that we need to overcome. Hatred manifests itself through anger, fear, and discontent when we are afraid to lose our own identity and at the thought of being deprived of our material possessions. It feeds the internal dread inside us. 


 Fear,  directly and indirectly learned, is an emotional state of consciousness. It may be the legacy of the individual or collective odyssey,  an inherited behavior passed on by our ancestors. Against ourselves,  our fears grow and become at times echoes of an atrocious and despotic anguish as the muddy waters of the Unconscious bring to the surface oppressive visions. They trigger a defensive response, giving rise to divisions between individuals or groups of people. 


On the day of the full moon, I dreamt that I entered a room and read a sentence on a card stuck on a wall. I did not like what I read, so I walked away. Reading actual words in a dream is uncommon. Only a small class of people overwhelmingly made up of writers -- especially poets -- use language in a meaningful way when they sleep. Are the words I read in my dream the projection of my own insecurities? Between existential anxiety and our struggle for freedom, we can't dissociate what we do from who we are as the story of the butterfly and the mole  goes:


One day, a butterfly, perplexed, asks a mole: "How do you manage to live underground?" "I don't know anything else," replies the mole, "I'm happy to be who I am. Is living above ground and living underground that much different?" "The difference is the light. In the heat of the sun, the wind carries my wings," says the butterfly. "Darkness," says the mole, "helps me face my fears. My blind eyes give my paws the freedom to explore on their own journey to the center of the Earth."


A fundamental fear


 Memories paint the present with the colors of the past. While we are trapped within the bounds of a spatiotemporal location, History displaces itself in time and space. Thirty-one years ago, I was in Beijing. In me lingers the memory of the turmoil I witnessed. Seeing the military trucks and humvees in the streets of D.C. brought back images from that time. As I watched political figures marching with protesters, I remembered Zhao Ziyang walking through the crowd of students in 1989. As the corner of 16th Street & H was renamed and three words of protest were painted in yellow on the roadway, I remembered the Goddess of democracy standing in the middle of Tiananmen Square. What I see unfolding in the streets of the Capital reminds me of the early days of the student protest that led to the Tiananmen crackdown. Uncertainty plays right into the hands of my own fear of the unknown. 

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley, Invictus


There is light in the dark, blue skies in the clouds, rays of sunshine peeking through above the dead branches of the oak tree.

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