Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Really Scares Me

The other night, as I was laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, I got to thinking about what Aria is afraid of. What fears motivate her. And in doing so, I began to ponder the things that truly terrify me (which didn't help me fall asleep at all!). Aria and I have nothing in common when it comes to fears, mainly because mine are too modern for her.

Here are my top three terrifiers:

Unquestioning Faith: Whether it is religious or scientific, faith in a political candidate or a prom queen, absolute, unquestioning faith gives me the willies. History has shown the horrors of faith on this level. Merely look at every war before the twentieth century, and there is faith at its backbone. Maybe every war has faith for foundation: faith that our beliefs are superior to yours; faith that you simply don't know yet that you want to be like me, to vote how I vote, pray to who I pray to, and eat, dress, behave as I do. Absolute chills at the thought.

Genetic Manipulation: Science is a field that falls solidly into the massive gray area of morality. Some science is very clearly nonthreatening; some science is just as clearly devoid of any redeeming qualities. But genetic manipulation is questionable. Using the science to cure diseases seems like a good plan. Using the science to change the genetic codes of living organisms seems like a plan destined to doom the world.

Combine genetic manipulation with food and I'm feeling nauseous. Scientist still haven't figured out the complete effects that any one plant has when consumed—science is very good at singling out the specific nutrients contained within each plant (though their work is never complete), but to understand the complex relationships of every nutrient with the human system remains elusive. Studies are released all the time with new data about the heretofore unrecognized health benefits of well-known fruits and vegetables. Simply take a look at the vast changes (and often contradictions) in our nutritional guidelines in the last fifty years and you begin to see the bigger picture of just how little scientist know about food.

That doesn't mean it stops them from changing the properties of these plants, genetically manipulating them to have greater yields, more harvests, grow on less land—anything that saves farmers money and increases revenue. Genetic manipulation (and other factors) have created fruit and vegetables in our supermarket that have half the nutrition of their 1950s counterparts. I'm not seeing a great leap forward for mankind here.

I find it even more terrifying that animals are being genetically manipulated to have more offspring, more muscles, more meat at market time for less feed in the trough. If scientists don't know enough to understand the full ramifications of tweaking the genetic code of a tomato, I hardly think they're equipped to handle the complex codes of a pig or cow. Add to the fear an FDA that doesn't require labels on food to show it's been genetically manipulated or restaurants to say if they're serving genetically manipulated meats, and I'm seeing soylent green on the horizon. (Yes, fear makes me only more dramatic.)

Weather Manipulation: Messing around with the genes of individual creatures is bad enough; messing around with the weather of the entire planet is terrifying. Yet it is being done all over the world. The Chinese have been doing it for years. With enough material and manpower (both of which the Chinese have in abundance), you can control the weather. You don't want rain on a parade day, do some cloud seeding. Does it matter that changing the weather above your neck of the woods will have ramifications across the entire planet? Apparently not.

China's not the only country doing it, either. Russia, the United States, Canada, and Australia rank among the 24 countries that are trying to outsmart Mother Nature. Nothing, not even faith or genetic manipulation, terrifies me more than trying to control weather.

Which is all to say, Aria and I don't share the same fears. What does she fear? Not fitting in, losing her powers, losing the man she loves. Her fears are more grounded, more relateable; small picture vs. big picture. I find it much more comforting to concentrate on Aria's fears than my own.

No comments: