The weather forecasters predicted a weekend of weather events. The prognostication included damaging winds, tornadoes, and hail. That prediction festered in many people’s minds, including mine.
I wondered if we don’t overdo warnings of potential danger. I tried to pinpoint when prudent warnings have gone above and beyond the necessary into the territory of panic. I’d seen it in severe weather broadcasts, many times. Plain, matter of fact statement of officialdom is best. In the case of tornado or severe thunderstorm warnings that are imminent, then some feeling of urgency is required, but not too much.
But what is too much?
We get warnings almost daily. It seems that arousing our fears is the most effective way to gain our attention. The trouble is with our information overload these days. Teevee, radio, the web is brimming with fearful messages. I do like to have a heads-up about pending actions by the government. I like to know if I’m going to be travelling to a safe or a dangerous area. I’m glad to be alerted to instances of fraud and criminality. Being aware of the possibility of severe weather is understandably important, too.
But using fear is a limiting tactic. After awhile, the audience burns out. We can only hear that the “sky is falling, the sky is falling” so many times until we become immune to the warnings.
What is legitimate? What needs to be taken with a grain of salt?
Obviously, physical threats must not be neglected. When you walk down a dark alley at night and you hear a stranger’s footsteps, there is reason for some fear. If a spider is traversing her web across the room, any fear you may have is likely irrational.
We have mass fears that are instigated by people with an agenda of manipulation on their minds. Xenophobia or jingoism are put into play by those who wish to use our fears of foreigners to advance their causes. Homophobia is a diversionary tactic used by aggressive people who might also fear their own homosexual tendencies. The homophobe hopes to gain some sort of backhanded acceptance from society by using our fears of what is thought of as “different”. Racism again uses the fear of “other” to garner social and political support for the racist.
A person can just go along with the fear and get caught up in the negative flow of destructive emotions and actions. Or one can turn around and face the fear head on. There is the opportunity to build strength of character if a fear is looked at reasonably and rationally.
If you’re afraid of being eaten by wild animals, perhaps that is a valid fear. If you want to go for a late night hike in the rainforest, you may wish to travel in a group. Perhaps a firearm is needed for personal protection at that time.
Maybe a family of a different ethnic background or a same sex couple moves into the house next door to you. Instead of simmering and stewing in fear and hatred, you would be better served by not only accepting your new neighbors, but by going over to meet and befriend them. In most cases, we will find that our irrational fears limit our capacity for happy, fulfilling lives. Meeting the fear, head on, with love, acceptance and lack of personal agenda makes you stronger and more joyful.
The weekend weather did arrive with a flourish. The sky became dark blue-black. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, winds increased from the north. Rain poured from the sky in torrents, beating the window panes. Before I could think, hailstones the size of large marbles came crashing onto the house and windows. The noise was deafening.
Half an hour later, the storm had passed. The yards and street were filled to overflowing with hailstones. Trees were stripped of leaves, some of which were plastered onto the outer walls of buildings. Plentiful hailstones, twigs, leaves and tree seeds carpeted my lawn.
Was the urgent weather warning warranted? In this case, maybe so. Regardless, I think I would have preferred that it had been less filled with superlatives. Meantime, I had a monumental cleanup chore ahead of me.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is often puzzled at the human tendency to exaggerate.