Fear is innate.
There is a certain fear that comes with the survival instinct and another fear that comes in times when all we stand to lose is our reputation.
I recall many years ago (nearly 30 to be exact), I was asleep in a waterbed at a friend's house. In the middle of the night, said friend woke me because she heard a sound. The dog, who was sleeping peacefully beside me woke with a start and began barking at the shadows. Me, I fled. Fight or flight? I fled. I scrambled across the bed to get away from the danger, terrified, afraid for my life. It took me years to find the humour in the fact that you can't easily launch yourself out of a waterbed. I liken it to Fred Flintstone's legs going a mile a minute but his body not moving at all and a xylophone beating out the tune of his feet spinning in mid-air.
It's true that fear is a driving force in most people's lives. We are afraid to say what's on our minds and when we do find the visceral fortitude to speak out, we tend to water down the issue that's been brewing at the back of our minds so it is palatable to those around us, fearful of the judgement to come should it not be well received. Sometimes that fear leads to a better understanding of the issue in our own minds. Other times, it's just a cop out, blaming fear for holding us back.
Last night, I was driving home just after midnight and as I pulled off the 401 and turned onto Montreal Street, a large puff of smoke ran across the road about 100 yards ahead. It stopped part way across and looked right into my headlights and that's when I could see it was a wolf. A very large, grey wolf with a black head, puffy tail and long, white legs. I slowed the car and the wolf dipped his head as if taunting me to charge at him. Then he pushed off with his horse-like legs and disappeared up someone's driveway and into the night.
My heart was racing and the bottoms of my feet tingled. I was ready to bolt from fear for my life, just like the night I tried to leap out of a waterbed. The wolf, on the other hand, seemed not to fear the two tons of vehicle headed his way as much as he feared that I saw him. Out of his element. In the urban jungle rather than the forest where he belonged. He feared me seeing him not as a fearsome predator but as a hungry, garbage-eating critter no different than a rat or raccoon.
I felt the survivalist's fear, he felt the fear of losing face. If only he knew how privileged I felt having seen him at all. And maybe that's what I need to keep in mind the next time I fear speaking my mind, just let yourself be seen at all. Like the wolf, you don't know what people really think of you and it might not be that bad.