Have you ever walked along a treetop canopy, your feet stepping on narrow wooden boards maybe 20 cm (8 inches) wide that are swaying slightly in the wind, your hands gripping the guide wire on either side of you, listening to your gut and a big slice of your mind telling you “Do not look down!!” because you are, at this moment, some 21 metres (70 feet) above a forest floor where one slice of your mind is saying over your internal broadcast system (praying, really) “Please be okay, please be okay, please be okay,” with each step, which translates as “please Goddess of trees, hold me close in your generous soft bosom and do not let me fall!” while another slice of your mind — the part that enables the muscles in your face to move so that you can grin like a goof at your girlfriend as she looks back at you with a big goofy grin — is saying just as loudly on a different internal broadcast system, “Whoooo hoooo!! How cool is this?” because there you are, facing your fear and doing it anyway realizing that fear of heights and fear of falling are tied for 1st place on your never-gonna-share-with-anyone especially HER list of Things that are real that I am most afraid of.
I did this tree canopy walk. Once. And it was memorable. Not so much for the conquering fear of heights part. No. The memorable part happened on the platform situated 15 metres (50 feet) above the ground where we stopped to have a picnic. A minute after I sat my shakey self on the platform, a cheeky chipmunk decided that my lunch could be its lunch and launched itself out of nowhere to stake its claim. (I am not now, never was and never will be, a screamer. However, I have a good startle reflex.)
Chipmunk landed in my food, chaos ensued: my flesh seemed to jump out of my skin, setting in motion other reactions: food flew out of my hands, over the side of the platform. People stopped their conversations, grabbed whatever they could. There was an EEK! here and there. Moments later, as my brain realized what was going on, my heart was able to gingerly make its way from my throat back into its cage. As I settled, Mr. Chipmunk, clearly miffed, gave me the dirtiest, longest, meanest look I have ever received from a living being.
While I might have exercised some courage that day overcoming fears inherited from my mother, I no longer look chipmunks or a girlfriend (who, once assured that everything was okay — doubled over, squealing with laughter) at me in quite the same way.
I’ve been thinking about courage and fear because of what I’m reading and seeing on the news, all of which seems to be about the worst side of human beans again: war, blood feuds, money — getting or losing it, crime and accidents and wicked weather and celebrity stupidity — all the bad stuff that makes good money for news corporations. And of course, the ongoing hate against LGBTs spurred by religious fundamentalists.
My sci-fi slice of mind offered its succinct solution and I think it’s worth considering. Develop shrink-ray technology. Target all the world’s haters, war-mongers, fighters, spiteful power seekers, blood feuders, misogynists, with a special emphasis on those who hurt children and animals. Engage the shrink ray and shrink ’em ALL with their ignorant energy down to sea-monkey size and — using transporter technology — beam them via one-way transmission to the watery ninth ring of the not-yet-discovered planet Zathar to fight among themselves and leave the rest of us alone to tackle life, squealing girlfriends and grumpy chipmunks with all the courage we can find.