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The Fear of the Unknown

We love certainty and knowledge and receive a warm and comforting feeling from the unfolding routine of daily habits and from actions that provide the expected results. In other words, we like being in control and being able to take a short glance in the near future.

Life has a funny way of drifting us from the charted territory of our existence and bringing a fresh source of unknown at the horizon. We don’t enjoy that much this kind of scenarios and this is a remnant of our infancy as specie, when the unknown was almost omnipresent and equaled danger. As we gradually discovered the world and evolved from being hunted to hunters, the unknown was exiled in smaller and smaller places. We shed light with our knowledge and understanding and we are now proud owners of a known world. We evolved the same way a child leaves behind its infancy and races faster and faster in life.

 But the unknown proves to harder to beat and we can’t dream of a world without it. As it retreats to its dark spots, it becomes concentrated and harder to break. The strongholds of the unknown now occupy distant and abstract lands. We still label them with “hic sunt dracones” and populate them with fruits of our imagination, just to avoid an even bigger fear – the fear of empty, of nothingness. Weaken by the scientific charge of the last centuries, the unknown still laughs at us because we are not able to find answers for the big questions, the question that really matter. We don’t know why we are here. We are still not able to imagine and accept the infinite. We don’t know for sure if we are alone or if there is someone beyond us.

The fear of the unknown comes together with a high dose of fascination that makes it almost surreal. We can’t live in constant fear, so at a certain point we will replace it either with hate, either with adoration. We will seek and follow those that claim to be able to get a grasp on what eludes us. We will follow their special sense and try to lie to ourselves, to quiet down our curios mind.

The future is the biggest source of unknown for our personal existence. We can imagine it as a tree that branches out to many different possible outcomes. We have no way of knowing which is the right one to chose, the same way we are not able to see around the corner. Even with a large luggage of information and preparation we can’t be sure that the road will lead us to our desired destination and this can be indeed scary. Paradoxically, having too many choices in hand can be confusing at times and prevent us from making the correct decision.


Fear leaves us with only two possible ways of action: to run or to fight. As real dangers have become less and less present, modern times have shaped the two alternatives. We can decide to run away from a problem, to ignore it, or we can stay and gather information about that problem in order to be able to overcome it. Fear is at its core an instinct, but it can be also a result of rational thinking. We fear what is beyond our control or about what we do not have enough information.

Information can be a two-edged weapon against the unknown. Lack of information, distorted information or rumors that usurp real information can make it even more distant and untouchable. When information fails us, we often use intuition or pure belief to make small hesitating steps and established temporary outposts.

Overcoming our fear towards the unknown can sometimes borrow unconventional methods. They don’t say it for nothing that ignorance is bliss. Although unethical, it can be better no to search for the truth and learn to live inside existing limits. The unknown remains an invisible boxer that moves around the ring. We are most likely to remain in defense for the rest of our lives, as any punch from us is a lucky guess and can leave us without guard.

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