What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear,” stated Burke in Part II of A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.” But, what is fear really? According to Burke, fear is an apprehension of pain or death. His definition is logical; however, to me fear is the unknown. For example, why are people scared of the dark? Because they don’t know what is around them because they cannot see. The darkness obscures one’s vision. Burke said, “To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary.” On the other hand, you could argue that the unknown is a reason to not have fear. Here’s an example, I live out in the country, so when it’s dark, it’s dark. My younger brother would have no problem walking to the pond by himself in the dark without a light. Me, on the other hand, I wouldn’t do it if you paid me. The darkness obscures his vision just as it does mine but perhaps the saying is true, what you don’t know can’t hurt you. Maybe his lack of fear is due to his lack of knowledge of what could be out there.

Another element of the sublime, according to Burke, is the cries of animals. He says, “Such sources as imitate the natural inarticulate voices of men, or any animal in pain or danger, are capable of conveying great ideas; unless it be the well-known voice of some creature, on which we are used to look with contempt. The angry tones of wild beast are equally capable of causing a great and awful sensation.”  I think the emotion evoked from an animal call has a lot to do with the species and the time of day when it is heard. One afternoon I was running a couple of miles away from my house. The road is straight and the land is flat, trees on one side, pasture on the other. (It’s not necessarily sublime but it is a nice landscape.) I had already run about two and a half miles and was starting to wear down. Then a hawk, watching me form a power pole, cried out it was kind of empowering probably because that is a sound you don’t normally hear.

Another feeling I have experienced evoked by animal cries is far from empowering, it was bone chilling. I was ridding the four wheeler near the pond and parked it for a brief moment when I heard the high pitch cries of a pack of coyotes, way to close for comfort. I almost ran the four wheeler right into the pond. I will never forget the terrifying feeling hearing those coyotes. It was truly a sublime experience.

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