Published in February 2004 issue of Prospect Magazine
10 Terrorist attacks It’s something that one is so powerless over that those are clearly fears that political leaders play upon. 9 Acts of God Tidal waves, hurricanes, plagues of frogs. I’m particularly afraid of big waves of water. I find them not only frightening but awesome, in the literal sense. Very beautiful and terrifying at the same time. 8 Isolation I court it for my work, and I both love and fear it. I’m scared of the crazy part of one’s own mind, when the overactive imagination hits back with something more luminous and disturbing. When I’ve spent long periods of time alone in remote places where you become aware of your own thoughts like a tap dripping, you also become acutely aware of the shadowy other part of yourself. It’s scary. 7 Environmental destruction It’s a fear that we all have, but people find it hard to grasp. We think the dangers are too many generations away, but I fear its deleterious effect on our society, a decadence that has already set in. It’s a present fear to me. It doesn’t motivate me to recycle because I think it’s too late, and that is a very fearful state of mind. 6 My own, proven capacity for self-destruction I fear it and I rightfully take measures against it, cleaning up from drink and drugs, therapy. I don’t actively fear relapse, but I’m aware of the potential. I respect the fear of relapse. 5 Flying One in three times I fly I am terrified. I experience more terror during takeoff than I do at almost any point in my life. 4 Cancer I fear everything about cancer. My parents died of cancer; I’m still a smoker; I’ve led a highly carcinogenic life. I fear the awful decision that cancer faces you with: how much do you value your own consciousness? Sometimes cancer can’t be beaten, so it confronts you with the choice of taking the honourable-in my view-way out: suicide. Or waiting until it’s too late. 3 Death That’s what the mid-life crisis is. Many people experience it as wanting to sleep with much younger people, break up their marriage, change their job. What’s really afflicting them is the fear of death, which is held at bay. I had intense fears of death as a child, then it’s replaced in your teens by your sex drive. I think in middle age naked fear of death returns. I found myself waking up in the morning sweating with anxiety about my extinction. 2 Anything bad happening to my close family In relation to one’s own wife and children one has the duty of fear. It’s like a duty of care, and it’s there the whole time. 1 Death of my loved ones I am a neurotic parent. If for any reason my children are missing I become incapacitated with anxiety. I have no ability to stay cool; I experience fear almost immediately. I once thought of writing a story called "100 Lost Children": like a lot of parents of roughly my generation the reason the Bulger case was so frightening was not just the child killing but also the idea of the disappearance, and it’s become a very powerful motif.