Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Scary Things

Our society loves Halloween. Haunted hayrides, amusement parks-turned-gorefests... These things are a major fuel to the October American economy. It shows that we are a seasonal people, perhaps, but that's a topic for another post. What I'm concerned with now is why. What is it about "getting scared" that America's collective "we" love so much? Alternately, what is it about scaring others that gives us such a charge? A bit more broadly: Why do we take such pleasure indulging in the perverse each October? That last one's probably the simplest - because dark things have their own seductive attraction, and the abberation is dispensed because of the 'holiday' season.

Why do we love scaring others? Well, at base I'm sure it's the same as why we do many things to each other - because we love seeing their reactions. And it's not something we'd dislike to receive ourselves, so we're not bad people for doing this.

That brings us to the heart of the matter: Why do we so enjoy being scared? Is it the rush of the fear without actual danger? Is it the pleasant feeling of building up a higher and higher tolerance, so that one is more and more 'sophisticated'? Or is it simply harmless fun?

Now I understand why ComBoxes are used. Please, give me your feedback. My mind is far from settled, but my interest is piqued...


  1. In short: We enjoy scaring because laughter is tied to pain.

    To Humor:

    Have you ever noticed that Christ's laughter was never recorded, but his weeping was? (Ironically, Buddha laughed but never wept.) There are few things which I agree with Heinlein about, but his analysis that laughter is generally related to a shared pain is fairly apt. Most joviality is based on scandalization, on overturning people's norms (whether the person is the butt-end or the perpetrator of the joke). Even jokes which are intrinsically misogynistic or racist are there because the person fears or despises the race/gender/sub-group or the person finds such comments so far removed from the expected, that the person laughing becomes the brunt of the joke himself. It so overturns such an individual that he feels unable to maintain a calm demeanor.

    We do well to remember that both the book of Sirach and the Rule of Benedict warn against laughter. While we may interpret this as "raucous laughter" or fool heartiness, the fact is that both condemn all laughter as a distraction of the soul. While I admit that interpreting this literally means I will be amongst the first condemned, even figuratively this gives one pause. If we look at things honestly, as we often are not wont to do, we have to admit that this is right, that humor can cloud the soul -- a thought which holds both tremendous danger and is truly terrifying indeed.

  2. Short answer about fear: We desire to subdue fear.

    There are quite a few people who have written on this far better than I, but the long and the short is that man is perpetually trying to subdue his fears. Doing the Truth in Love notes that the desire for man's perpetuity, an existence which is self-sufficient and apart from God is the desire of the fallen. Rightly he points out the quote, "Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n" from Paradise Lost as a true example of how the fallen would rather have destructive autonomy than admit dependence.

    In going on roller-coasters, haunted hay-rides, watching scary movies, etc. we can be said, in a certain sense, to be attempting to defy death and conquer fear through pretending to overcome it. Unfortunately, the truer action is admittance of mortality and using perfect love to cast out all fear. For if dependence is admitted, then there is no more room for fear.


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