Pygmachophobia…kind of

fear IHave you ever been asked what your biggest fear is? Spiders, snakes, heights, crowds, dogs, thunder, lightning, needles, social situations, flying, and germs are likely among the most common answers to this inquiry.  My biggest fear has always been the same but it is only in the last few years that I could put my finger on it.  My biggest fear is a creature that enters your brain dressed in a cloak of truth, claiming to be the key to your true purpose in life.  Once in, this parasite systematically reduces your vision and zombifies your daily actions.  We have all seen the sad victims of this terror.  They deflect unfamiliar topics of conversation in favor of more comfortable topics like work, weather, or whats on TV.  They speak in absolutes and don’t have time to hear anything contradictory to their answers.  Eventually they degrade physically and mentally to a mere shell of unrealized potential.  The saddest part about these victims is that they feel that it is natural for them to be that way because they look around and their state is not only the norm but socially rewarded.  This parasite spreads like wildfire via social pressures and seems to be most effective when passing generationally.  So what is this nightmarish creature? My biggest fear is the mental rigidity that spawns from the illusion of knowledge.  In other words, my fear is boxes constructed of absolute answers.  The most frightening thing about this progression towards mental rigidity is that those who are now that way grew up saying they never would be.  Somewhere along the way most are broken and forced into the very boxes they said they’d never enter.  My defense against letting my biggest fear manifest itself in my life is hanging on to the one truth that I can be sure of: that I know nothing.

I stumbled on this comic strip through a friend of mine.  Before continuing this article take the five minutes to read through:

“A Day in the Park” – Mused   [editor’s note: viewing this is a must. Don’t sleep.]

This comic stated everything I believe in such a precise way that it is a bit chilling. I’ve had this conversation with so many people that it’s become less of a conversation and more of a recital.  The obscure reality that we seem to exist in is an infinite interrogative abyss which frightens most people to the point of gradual willful oblivion.   To me, that void is not a void at all, it is a free all-you-can-eat-buffet of knowledge.  I don’t think the quest for knowledge is a quest at all, it is a state that we are to exist in indefinitely.

I think that aversion towards our natural state of curiosity is a conditioned response forced on us from an early age.  Think about it, why do we obviously have this insatiable thirst as a species to hunt for knowledge, but as early and often as possible we are declawed with every bit of “absolute knowledge” we are force fed.  I say “force fed” because we fight back before we can remember, during the age we know as the ‘terrible twos’ where the majority of us grasp the meaning of the word ‘no’.  It is during this developmental period that we start to notice these literal and metaphorical barriers rising around us, beginning to box us in. We fight  in the only ways we know how: tears and ‘NO’.  This struggle continues until we are beat (often literally) into accepting what we are told is “realistic”.    *pukes in mouth*.

Schools teach based on what they think they know (which changes everyday, or would if we knocked down the walls) not based on what we don’t.  Parenting is based on commands stemming from an overwhelmingly unlearned place, not explanation or seeking info together (god forbid parents admit not knowing something to their child). Imagine for a second a place where it is encouraged for teachers and parents to learn alongside their students, and lessons were taught based on equipping people to explore the mysteries in life.  Instead, we are brought up in a place where mysteries are hidden and knowledge is standardized.  All of this to pump out a constant stream of worker bees and soldier ants to feed this now autonomous machine that we have created. “Grow up”, “get a life”, “you need a reality check”. Have you ever thought about the meaning behind these cliche phrases? “Grow up” means “become fuel for the machine”. “Get a life” means “use your life for the purpose I’ve blindly accepted”.  “You need a reality check” means “you need to accept the reality that I have been forced into”.  Phrases like these seem to be programmed into us as a last line of defense when our current systems of belief are threatened.  If someone calls you an unrealistic child who needs to get a life, you are probably doing something right, so don’t be discouraged.

fear II

I’m not saying that we all need to go out and quit our jobs, because unfortunately this is what we have for a culture right now.  All I am saying is that I don’t think living in ignorant bliss sets us up to improve upon current paradigms. I am against being so indoctrinated that we don’t even know that we are conditioning ourselves let alone know to question why we are conditioning each other.  And we can’t blame it on some “higher-ups”.  Even if they do provide the bricks and mortar, it is us who voluntarily build these walls and bars of perceived knowledge essentially becoming our own zoo keepers.   Monkeys training monkeys. I have heard about an experiment where some  bananas were placed at the top of a ladder in an enclosure with five monkeys.  Whenever one of the monkeys climbed the ladder the rest of the monkeys were sprayed down with cold water as punishment. After a while the monkeys started shit-kicking anyone who attempted climbing the ladder. The conductors of the experiment then began trading out one monkey at a time for an untrained monkey. It would climb the ladder and get shit-kicked into the existing social structure. The same would happen with the next monkey that was traded out , and so on until they were left with a group (troop?) of monkeys operating under a social structure which was no longer applicable (the cold water ceased to be needed). They became a bunch of monkeys who are sitting at the bottom of a ladder blinded to the possibility of the bananas at the top of the ladder. Now if those monkeys could talk and you asked them why they don’t go get the bananas, what would they say?  They’d probably come up with some convoluted story about how the water god punished them in their attempt to climb towards the gods in a hunt for the forbidden fruit. Those bananas are the knowledge that we naturally hunger for.  Curiosity is the tool to retrieve the knowledge.  But our tools are taken from us by a bunch of monkeys who had their curiosity stifled by a bunch of monkeys who had their curiosity stifled by a bunch of monkeys…etc. “Why can’t I have some of them bananas?” SHUT UP is why. “Why can’t I ask these questions which go against the commonly accepted narrative?” FUCK YOU, you’re crazy is why. Boxes. Zoos built and tended by the captives.  Luckily, we have the keys to these boxes, but once you’re out, there is no going back. And either you crumble out here in this dark scary jungle, or float through this oasis of knowledge and possibility. Both are the same. The interpretation is yours.


fear III

9 thoughts on “Pygmachophobia…kind of

  1. Preach baby. I’ve also had this conversation with many people. It’s interesting that the world as we know it actually discriminates against unique, intellectual thought. The idea of asking questions is thought to be taboo. In particular, I have found this in two main areas of my life – work and school. (‘who’d a thunk it?’)

    If you ask a question like “can you just clarify to me how capital markets work?” your professor will smile, open up their arms and hug you, and tell you everything will be ok. If you ask, “why do we accept capital markets as absolute economic engines when they clearly are unsustainable?” (forshadowing future blog post) your professor will go red in the face and ask you to leave the room for using profanity.

    In the workplace, if you follow the rules, don’t ask questions and do everything you are told to you will likely be promoted to middle management and retire at the age of 65 with a healthy pension. If you ‘rock the boat’ and ask questions, even in an attempt to try to help the organization spot a glaring problem, your manager will ask you to stay after hours for a “talk” about inappropriate workplace behaviour.

    Case in point, don’t get frustrated when the people in the boxes shoot down your ideas. Stay true to your path and remember to blog daily.


    1. I really don’t think having unique thoughts is the fodder for discrimination. I don’t even think these thoughts are unique. I think we are all faced with them and either we block them out or we jump on the crazy train (shout out to ozzy). The aversion towards those thoughts happens when your thought bubble bumps into anyone else’s, most notably during live discussion. I like to pepper in little grains of “unique thought”(I’m beginning to like that term) in my every day weather discussions to check reactions. Almost 100% of the time communication of these thoughts is met by walls. But every once in a while you’ll detonate an explosion of truth that someone has been holding in for who knows how long. If we don’t talk about these things or, how you put it, “blog daily”, we are not only committing a disservice to ourselves, but we are becoming part of the social pressure to put that otherwise thoughtful person into their box.

      As for worrying about people shooting down ideas(speaking for myself): My idea can’t be shot down unless it is rationally discussed, in which case I have two choices. Either I consider the new idea, or I ignore…I’m not one to ignore.

      1. Basically what I’m getting at with “unique thoughts” is challenging conventional thinking in areas where box-dwellers would never even recognize an alternative. For example, today I was talking to coworkers about renting vs. buying homes (an area that bankers should be well-informed) and in my attempt to even introduce the discussion that renting might be advantagous in several ways (including financial) the notion was met with puzzled “we hired this guy?” looks.

        I’m not at all suggesting that intellectuals need fear ostracism by sharing unique thoughts, I’m simply stating that we (self-proclaiming myself an intellectual – suck it) shouldn’t get frustrated if our “radical” ideas are not received well. Your last comment – “my idea can’t be shot down unless it is rationally discussed” summarizes this nicely. Introduce the idea and make people think about it.

  2. – Questions: harder than answers
    – Questions: more threatening than answers

    If you are habitually accepting of only answers, any question is seen as ‘deviant’ and seen as threat towards having to making a change… (i.e., if you don’t question anything, you don’t have to change your mind)

    To change and to question: things that are too painful and too hard for most.

    And I’d argue we are trained to be chained in this way.

    1. I wouldn’t say that questions are inherently “harder” than answers. I’d say they are far easier. More threatening to who? certainly not us. I’d say for sure it has been programmed into us that they are harder and more threatening. But that is just a reflection of the system’s perspective, not our natural ones.

      1. Ya I’d agree – there’s nothing like a child’s curiosity.. Then most people lose it… Then it becomes hard to go back to a place where asking questions is a stimulating endeavour and not a challenging and threatening one.

        e.g.: the middle-level manager cited above by kidcreate. The upside to, say, questioning corporate structure is pretty low at this point in your life, and its answers might make you change the way you think about your position and yourself.


    I can track click-thrus on the site, and most people who read the article didn’t take the 5 mins, as the author humbly suggested, to read the comic.

    It is exceptionally written and illustrated and adds color the the post.

  4. Detonated my device. I agree with it all. My only fear is myself and a lot of that stems from being a conditioned monkey trying fight through this jungle we call life. Preach baby, preach that truth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.