Fear the known

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” – Joseph Campbell

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The candy-coated feared house of the known

Yesterday (21st of July) was Belgium’s birthday, and unlike in the Flemish parts of the country, there was a big celebration in Brussels. They had probably one of the biggest fireworks (at least longest) I have seen and me & Alsu even manage to spot some royal handwaving.

This got me thinking about nationalism and its evil cousin xenophobia. For those who don’t know Belgium has recently been in a flux becuase of the inability of the currently elected parties to form government. This resulted in relatively timid displays of nationalism – at least in Brussels where a lot of people still want Belgium to stick together as one country.

Nationalism isn’t always as peaceful, and spurred on by destructive forces it can turn really bad, even in Belgium. Probably why it can be so destructive is because it stems from such a basic human emotion – the fear of the unknown. Almost all of us can recognize this feeling – when we find ourselves in a new country, or just in a different part of town.

I live in the borders of the maroccan and turkish parts of Brussels (in total between 100 000 and 200 000 people, about 50% of the inhabitants of these districts), which I think is great. There is a mix and an energy I love – but most of all, what you realize, is that it’s just the same as anywhere else.

However, a lot of people are afraid of these districts – I recently met a girl who just moved in to this area and she was genuinely afraid of walking from the subway after dark. The fear itself doesn’t stem from any factual experiences – she had never heard, nor seen, nor experienced any unsafety. Rather it was all about a sense of not understanding or not regonizing what was going on around her.

Instead of fearing this, the unknown, I would say the opposite holds more danger to you – fear the known. It is when you are surrounded by the known that you are stifled, your creativity goes bust and you stop developing. In the known you are not forced to think new things, to react to unexpected situations – to learn.

For me – I use the fear of the unknown as an indicator that I am on the right track – that I am challenged and developing. Whereas when I feel that comfortable, warm, fuzzy feeling of the known – I try to urge myself to run, a bit like Hantzel and Gretchen should have done. Because behind that candy coated house of the known there is a witch – and all she wants is to stifle your personal development – so get out of there as quick as you can!

“Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

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