more (irrational?) fears…no fear

Why I Fear Secret Agents


More examples of my so-called “irrational” fears which motivate me in daily life to semi-debilitating anxiety, overall grumpiness and cynicism, and intermittent irritable melancholia:


– that humans will address me at places like the grocery store or post office

– that strangers will wave, gesture or ask something of me

– that conversation will consist of small talk or reportage, weather or politics, movies or television or the like

– that people will form lines

– that people will speak to my wife, not to discuss important subjects, but to be near her

– that I will be subjected to dismal vocabularies and poor grammar in checkout lanes

– that wealthy people exude entitlement

– that people are attracted to my wife and see fit to feed their attraction on her

– that drivers, pedestrians, etc., are not paying sufficient attention to their surround to avoid inconveniencing one another

– that I will be forced to wait on people rather than things

– that strangers will feign friendliness or personability

– that people are lonely

– that people will talk even when they don’t know what they’re talking about

– facile, banal, pretentious, crass, or just-to-fill-silence sounds or speech

– poor music at public places

– strangers that look at other people

– that people will look lustfully at my wife

– that mean, arrogant or afraid people will hurt my children

etc… etc…


These things come up because my wife’s line of work involves events and occasions that thrust us into the company of unknown persons. Also there are children’s school events, and the family’s penchants for going to public places – restaurants, stores, parks, etc. And then the unavoidable (in our situation) necessities of garner food, gas, books, medicines, etc.

Each go-round, dinner out, art opening, bowling adventure, doctor’s visit and the like spawn this grimaced panic and negativity/cynicism/paranoiac expecting-the-worst in me which truly annoys and bothers my wife, interfering with her own process of attempting to enjoy or at least “make the best of” apparently unavoidable situations that arise – in her opinion they offer possibilities as positive as they might be negative – and rely on, at least to some extent, our own outlook and will, agency and action, for resultant experience.

It is this “some extent” I would like to address.

But firstly – expecting the worst allows for a sense of relief and even gratitude when the occasions are not so grueling, involve no meddlesome characters or inane chatterboxes, process people smoothly and peaceably and so on. Given what I have observed, endured in life (including my own self), public appearance without some impingement of others is quite rare, so bracing oneself offers an opportunity to be surprised.

At first I thought perhaps I was neurotic, paranoid of the outside world to an abnormal degree, frightened unnecessarily by elements seemingly beyond my control (knowing that even my heartbeat and breathing feels only nominally up to me) – that I had an overdeveloped or trauma-induced phobia of the unknown, of change and such things implicit in our world.

But this is not the case. I love extremes and discoveries – fantastics in geography, weather, even cultures and climates. I delight in new music, literature, arts and aspects of the natural world. Even exotic or unexpected animals don’t frighten me too much. No, it is only ever circumstances in which there is the possibility of encountering humans (unknown, or sometimes even positively known) at a personal level that wig the bejeezus out of me and deliver me psychophysiologically to panics, dis-ease and serious discomfort.

The only natural element I fear similarly is the prospect of my own death or suffering and cessation of my loved ones.


So what I fear, really, is the company or vicinity of unknown beings with agency. The “some extent” my own strength, choice and abilities amount to in a room- or theater- or store- or park-ful of human persons feels/seems/appears tremendously miniscule to me: if we all count as ONE entity of volition and instinct in any given setting – my personal power of self-protection always amounts to an extremely small fraction (1/200 – grocery store?, 1/400 – zoo?, 1/300 – library?, 1/infinity on a walk or bicycle ride?, 1/100 at an art opening or museum, 1/20th at a café and so on)

Bad odds for safekeeping.

Any one of those “others” speaking, looking, acting offensively, invasively, accostingly, uncouthly, disrespectfully, outgoingly, personably and so forth (according to my own standards which I have no right to project onto another, but which are similar to the “Golden Rule” – mine being “I’ll pretend you do not exist if you’ll pretend I do not exist” or “I’ll stay out of your space/sound/business – you stay out of mine”, tending to necessary transactions only – which rarely require speech or contact in these days of automation – thank you technology!) levels the limits of my “personal agency” by half. Add another person and I’m at 33% power and so on, incrementally I am laid into the arbitrary hands, minds, eyes, mouths and minds of insurmountable odds the moment I step out of my door.

Hence I have affinity for places like caves and Montana, Wyoming, Kansas’ Great Plains, my house – any places population statistics give 1:25 miles or more. And travel is usually okay – tend to be moving too quickly to be personally accosted, possibly imposed, or at least there is the available motion – to move away.

I don’t trust humans. Judging from myself and those closest to me – we are veritable paradoxes of mixed wants, feelings, perspectives and desires, concatenations of all manner of possibilities with very little apparent say in the matter or manner of our instincts and cross-purposing wills.

I.e. my fears seem reasonable enough. And have gotten me halfway through my life relatively healthy and calm. I’ll stay on guard, avoid what I can, and try to survive another forty years of relative disquiet.


N Filbert 2012


and Part Six….palatable

Part the Sixth: A Palette of Words on Your Palate

Your lips and tongue and oral cavity, in the manner of your fingerprints, pronounce consonants and vowels like no other body. In most cases this is noticeable only to machines and highly trained specialists, but physiologically speaking, your speech has a distinct personality, in the manner of what some would call your psyche or soul.

Your make-up is distinctive, by-and-large very similar to every other human being. This is one of the reasons you are able to understand others – recognize humans, their gestures, expressions, actions and sounds. They partake in voluminous similarities to your own. Still, a far cry from “identically.”

In fact, from one day to the next, even one hour, you yourself are not identical to yourself, body or otherwise. So how do we keep track of who’s who, where, when, etc? We use signs and labels for things and concepts…symbols that can stand for things and adjust to things while they change and flow.


The socio-linguistic faction of semioticians view human consciousness, personality, individuality something like this:

Your physiological composition and arrangement, however similar it may be to other human beings, is still unique. Individuality refers to this aspect: indeed, you are a discreet example/entity of the species.

This plays a very important part in your acquisition or formation/development of personhood. As the other entities immersed in the systems (polysystemic – gender, race, nationality, education, economics, etc.) incorporate you into these systems by means (primarily, or most directly) of more overlapping systems of signs and gestures, your individualized entity adapts these uniquely – fitting yourself into the systems, learning to use existent systems (ideologies) in your particular, but enmeshed way.

This interplay of inner distinctiveness and outer systems of interrelated elements = your flexible and evolving personality.

You are granted, accorded a place in the systems – counted as a person, even as you adapt and acquire roles and behaviors in the systems you engage – becoming a “person.”

The chicken and the egg are synchronic. You can’t have one without the other.

Languages are those threading elements you affect and alter even as they effect and shape you. “Psyche,” “personality” does not exist separately from these systems. In other words, you could not recognize yourself, think, have awareness, in a void or in total isolation (even “isolation” as a word doesn’t make any sense without “others” or “else” to be enabled by – isolated from). You are you by virtue of your physiological uniqueness and capacities immersed in systems of anythings not-you.

Sign-systems, languages, general as they may be, are the medium whereby your personality (formed with those systems) and all that you are not, encounter and engage, take shape, “become” in what we call a “conscious” matter.

Crux? Your palate and brain, organs and anatomy are things (particular objects), your interrelational existence (roles, personality, style, etc.) are not, that is, not extractable realities, but are however you ideology (idea-words) the flow of your individuality and everything else or other-passing-by at all moments.

Fluid, flexible, and always, we chicken-and-egg-and-chicken our “selves” and the “world” linguistically.

Languages our floating, loaded systems of communication (self-to-self, self-to-other, other-to-self) we select from and individualize with each application, while keeping us immersed and enmeshed with itself and its social and organic forming and flow. Palate-to-palette-to-palate it goes…

Your palate, aswim in the world-palette, dabbles in and mixes the palette, further coloring and staining your palate, and so on…or so my palette palatates it…


one is necessary, one is a piece of fatefulness,

one belongs to the whole, one is in the whole”

-Friedrich Nietzsche-

Language and personality partake of both nature and nurture

and are the expression of both”

-J.R. Firth-