Many people refer to me as the most rational and empirical person they know, and that’s a statement I can agree with. Through most of my life, it’s been a specific goal to allow emotions to impact as little of my decision-making as possible. In the course of this, I have entirely eliminated religious beliefs, socialist ideologies, and many other tendencies. Arguments with an emotional appeal have no impact on me at all, and it’s because my emotions don’t impact my position on something. We can see this in the abortion debate, with people insisting that this is a human being that is murdered, and the way that this claim has absolutely no effect on my position. We can also say this in Pro Minimum Wage arguments. “Everyone deserves a living wage!” has absolutely no impact on my position, because I know that an emotional idea like that doesn’t translate into sound policy. An irrational motivation leads to an irrational conclusion.
It’s a key part of Nihilism, in fact, and Nietzsche is often cited as being cold and emotionless–a label that is ignorantly applied to Nihilists such as myself today. This is merely a misunderstanding, however, as I’m more emotional than the average person. Because of emotions, I dropped my entire life and moved 2000 miles a year ago. So when I say that I don’t let emotions impact my decision making, that’s not true; I merely don’t let emotions affect my beliefs and conclusions. Nihilists are as emotional as anyone else (and in my case, perhaps more emotional); the difference is that a Nihilist carefully and rationally controls what their emotions are allowed to influence.
I didn’t do a podcast last night, and there’s a good reason for that. Aside from the fact that I got distracted by some transphobic douche on twitter, the truth is that I was terrified.
A few weeks ago, I began watching “creepy” videos on YouTube. Things from people like Mr. Nightmare and other notorious channels; horror movies have always been something I’ve loved, and I’ve watched probably thousands of such videos on YouTube with no ill effects whatsoever. However, I recently found myself unwilling to even turn on a light at night. The only light I would use was my bathroom light, for some innate fear that any other light would effectively serve as a beacon to “whatever is out there.”
This is very curious, because I know there is nothing out there. When I made the trip to Vegas, I stayed in the very back of a cheap motel in a shady part of Amarillo, and I did it without blinking. I’ve given countless rides to hitchhikers, and that has bitten me in the ass more than once. I used to allow a homeless man to come and stay in my home on cold winter nights. I don’t mention these to make you see me as altruistic, but because all of these are pretty reckless, devil-may-care things to be doing. I could add many others.
I live on the edge of a town. When I say “edge,” I mean exactly that. The property is rural, out of the way, quiet, and private–perfect for a transgender person in an area not particularly kind to transgender people. There is one house nearby, and it is lived in by a normal dude. On the west and north sides, I am surrounded by a field that is bordered by an untamed forest. I have a 38 special and a sawed off 12 gauge shotgun that is exactly the minimum length allowed by state law–I rationally know that I am fine, both because there is nothing out there and because I am more than armed. My shotgun is cradled on a shelf above my bed, and beside it sits a knife.
It’s not paranoia that causes me to do this, but common fucking sense. There’s only one exit from my bedroom–if I get caught in there by some invader, then there is only one way out, and that way out is through the assailant. So I merely have the tools necessary to go through the invader if required. It’s not because I think it’s likely to happen. I have nothing worth stealing, and there are 4 dogs that will make me instantly aware if there’s a human outside. While one or two routinely bark occasionally during the night at deer, coyotes, and wolves that happen to stray too close to the property, all 4 bark at humans. Dogs are curious like that. It’s also worth mentioning that these aren’t my dogs, but they do stay here with me. Long story. But they’re more or less just there.
It’s also true that Mississippi is not particularly friend to gay people, and certainly not to transgender people, and there’s always the possibility that someone learns the wrong pieces of information. It only takes one jackass to half-jokingly say “We should kill that faggot,” and then all of his friends will laughingly agree. The next thing you know, there’s a veritable lynch mob pulling into your driveway. These things happen, and on late nights after a few beers it becomes hard to predict what such people will do. Jokes get carried too far all the time, and peer pressure is the most underestimated force in American society.
But things have changed. I can no longer watch such creepy things and then be okay. It latches itself to something within me and refuses to let go. I have become terrified of turning on a light at night, for fear, as I said, that something “out there” will see it. I verify that all of my curtains are drawn, but I’m not convinced that all of this is to keep people from looking in. I think it’s to keep me from looking out. Because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that any fear and worry that I feel will be dispelled the very moment that I look outside.
It’s like my imagination constructs some creepy-video-informed idea of “what is out there,” and that imagining is allowed to fester until I look outside. It’s almost like that imagining is hesitant to die–abolition of the fear is never more than a few seconds away. Pulling back the curtain and looking is all that it takes, but I can almost never force myself to do it. Because what if…? What if I look and see that the imagined “out there” is what really is out there? What if I peel back the curtain and am met only by a grinning, maniacal face at one in the morning?
It’s that prospect that ties my hands and keeps me from looking, thereby allowing the imagined bullshit to grow to the point where I refuse to turn on lights, where I sit at two in the morning, scared to make a sound, telling my cats to knock off their rambunctious playing. It doesn’t matter that I know there will never be a haunted vestige of the devil himself staring back when I peer out into the world–no amount of reason and rationality can defeat this more primal fear of the unknown, and the obvious behavior of someone trying to shield themselves from the unknown.
This is highly unusual behavior for me. And though I’ve stopped watching creepy shit on the Internet, and though I know from experience that the mind’s hallucinations will steadily decrease until I once more think nothing about turning on the light in the kitchen, it doesn’t change the situation now. There is no doubt that this odd cultivation of primal emotions and irrational responses is a side effect of the hormone therapy, and “increased susceptibility to emotions” is no longer just a random line in an article somewhere. It doesn’t simply mean that I will be more prone to cry in sad movies; it has the very real meaning that I am, for the first time in memory, genuinely susceptible to the fear that there is something in the dark.
There is a really awesome angled mirror above my bed (use your imagination why that mirror is so freaking awesome), and I also have not been able to force myself to look into it–a result, of course, of creepy videos where a subject before a mirror moves, but the reflection does not. I have never had any problem with that, and it’s something I’ve actually pondered extensively because of the odd way that mirrors work. After all, if you touch your ear with your left hand, then your reflection touches its other ear with its right hand. But the same result comes from using the front-facing camera, which is why my guitar videos show a left-handed guitarist despite the fact that I’m right-handed. It’s nothing of significance, and, again, I know that.
But I have no rational control over this fear. No amount of reminding myself that we literally know everything there is to know about the surface of the Earth (underground and underwater still contain some question marks, of course) will erase these fears. No amount of reminding myself that I’m a fucking Nihilist who is more than aware that we live in a rational universe will dispel the fear that something unnatural is out there, not at one in the morning when I have the lights off and am lit only by the gentle glow of a television as I watch something–anything–desperate to take my mind off the fear.
For the first time in… probably twenty years… I am afraid. And I don’t know what I’m afraid of.
And that’s what makes me afraid.