Fear, by and large, is the unknown. Not understanding or knowing the consequences of your actions is what most people mean when they say they are afraid. Even when the situation seems entirely out of your control, the end result is still the culmination of your actions, whether over the course of a few minutes or a lifetime of missteps.
Fear of rejection, fear of death, and fear of, dare I say, success are all born from the same place: the unknown. You don’t know how brutally you’ll rebuffed when you finally send out your first freelance pitch or you ask your longtime crush to finally go out on a date. Your death could come at any second at the hands of anything. Will your fame and fortune breed jealousy and exile from former friends and family?
But that’s the unknown. All of that may be true or it may not, so we might as well not concern ourselves with worrying about any of that until we cross those respective bridges. Courage, after all, is doing what needs to be done in the face of fear. Or in ignorance or spite of fear. Whatever. As long as it gets done, right?
Knowing, however, is something different altogether. Knowing what will happen despite or because of your actions is not fear at all but rather an anxiety; a restlessness. You are no longer afraid of being rejected or dying or anything else so minute because instead of pondering the impossibly infinite number of possible outcomes, you are simply waiting. You are waiting for the inevitable end, impatient because you know what is coming and can do nothing about it. It’s not a calm but a clarity that washes over you, realizing what needs to and what will be done.
That’s how I feel, anyways, when I play horde modes in video games. I guess, more accurately, it would be survival mode since Gears of War 2‘s Horde Mode has an actual ending, but things like Call of Duty: World at War‘s zombie mode don’t have an end. Given enough luck, skill, and ammunition, you could potentially go on forever.
But you won’t.
These endeavors always end in death. They, much like life, have a discrete end without a finite cap. You go and go and go until you just can’t go anymore, and that’s that. You fight and scrape and always curse the heavens, but they all end the same. There’s nothing you can do except stave off the inevitable, but alas, it is inevitable.
But you do what you can to get by. You pick up spare rounds or steel yourself against madness and harm to reassure yourself, but the feeling is inescapable, the anxiety palpable. It’s never panic, though, only a keenness for the end, an annoyance that it has even taken so long for the ominous to find and take you. You’re doing your job, why can’t it? I’m standing here, ready if not willing, and you can’t even end it like you should.
It’s almost serene, the feeling that takes hold, I mean. The haze of excitement and battle fades away and leaves you with incredible and indefinable lucidity. There’s a tranquility—standing atop the wreckage of Reach, waiting for the Covenant to finish you—that is indescribable. It becomes mechanical, your survival instincts kicking in while your otherworldly cognizance of the outcome of this final play quells any rush of adrenaline. The nerves are gone, replaced by impatience; it is a rote motion of aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire.
And one by one, your team has left you. You entered together but you all will leave alone.
Aim, fire. Aim, fire.
You do what you do with only one guarantee. All you have is yourself because that is all that’s afforded.