I like things simple. Behind every complexity there is simplicity hiding, waiting to be found. That’s what I believe. Whatever complex problem you look at, there is a simple problem driving it. I blame a fascination with physics for that. The universe is an amazingly complex place that can be represented by a taught three dimensional sheet that gets stretched by energy. Or by various arrangements of particles so small that we’ll never see them. It’s trickier when it comes to people, to what we think, to how we feel.
I’m guilty of oversimplifying. Well. People accuse me of oversimplifying. They could be right. When it comes to people, I simplify down to two things. One thing, really. We want to continue as a species. It’s baked into the DNA of every living thing that ever lived. No species wants to die. No person wants to die. We want to live.
We want to procreate, to send our genes into the future. Which, on the grand scale, is really immortality. We want to live. I oversimplify just about every thing people do or think into that one truth. You can explain a lot about how people behave when you shine the will to live through them. Altruism becomes a lot more rational when you see it as life trying to help life. Fear, even irrational fear, takes on a flame of logic when you see it as a manifestation of a desire to live.
I wrote an angry diatribe yesterday about gun control. It was cathartic, but really, not good for much beyond letting me scream into the void. I know why people want to have guns to protect themselves. They’re afraid. We’ve known the quote ‘The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself’ for more than half a century now, but we don’t understand it. Well, some of us don’t. The first step in overcoming fear is to admit that you have it in the first place. We can’t even get people to admit what they are really afraid of.
My strawperson will readily admit that they are afraid that someone is coming to take their guns away. They’ll gesticulate adamantly that their means of self-defense will be pried from their cold, dead fingers. They never get to the bit where they’re really afraid of dying, or seeing their loved ones die. You can coax it out of them if you’re lucky, but you can’t pull that feral terror away from them. No amount of showing them statistics about death and dying will convince them that owning a gun places them in more jeopardy than less.
That’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s killing people. It makes me want to scream into the void. Thankfully, this time I slept on that feeling. Today I’m better. Today I’m sad. Today I see that all those frightened people are human and frail, given to living in fear while convincing themselves that they are brave. You can’t scream a fearful person down from their position. You have to set them at ease and introduce reason gently. Or invoke the wrath of a vengeful God. That last one doesn’t work out very well.
I don’t know the easy answer to get people to be less afraid. I know the hard one. Love them. Be patient. Show them what it is to face that fear of non-existence and not shy away from it. Tell them they don’t need to be afraid. Over and over and over again. Show them how to do the best with the time they are given. It’s not easy. Religion has been trying to do this for millennia. It’s a slow process. It’s a multi-generational process. It’s a simple process that frustrates the hell out of me.
I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and keep trying.