As a young child, I was not afraid of many animals.
I think this was because my perception of animals was built mainly through watching Disney films such as The Lion King.
The animal characters in Disney films are complex and emotionally developed beings with highly anthropomorphic mind sets.
A major shift in the way that I perceived animals occurred when I witnessed lion feeding time at a safari park.
Before this, my greatest insight into the brutality of nature came when I watched two ducks quack viciously at each other as they fought over a piece of bread in my local park.
I gradually came to realise that the primary concerns of animals in reality are much more visceral than those of their animated counterparts.
Watching nature documentaries such as David Attenborough’s Planet Earth has provided me with a slightly more realistic portrayal of animals.
David has taught me two main things about animals:
- Animals are some of the most amazing, beautiful and interesting things in existence.
- They are also sometimes really scary.
Whenever I think about sharks, I feel fear rising up inside of me, much like a shark rises up from the depths of the ocean to ambush its unsuspecting prey.
Thinking about the fact that the motion of the fear rising up inside of me is similar to that of a shark tends to get me thinking about sharks even more, leaving me mentally stranded in an infinite loop of terror.
I have often tried to pinpoint the exact source of my fear of sharks.
Maybe I am afraid of sharks because the film business tends to portray them as malicious man-eaters and, as we know, films are notoriously accurate representations of real life.
Or maybe it is because, on the rare occasions that sharks attack humans, they deliver an initial experimental bite before deciding whether to return and finish the job, which I guess is a bit like when you can try little samples of various food products in Tesco except with less customer service and more blood and death.
I have also considered that my fear is due to the fact that sharks thrive in the ocean, an environment in which I feel completely powerless and vulnerable.
However, there are many other creatures that also flourish in aquatic habitats that do not scare me as much as sharks.
People often say things such as ‘you are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning or have a vending machine fall on you than be attacked by a shark’.
However, these statements only serve to increase my awareness of other things that could cause me significant bodily harm in addition to sharks.
A cougar is a bit like a domestic cat but also not like a domestic cat at all.
In general, the domestic cat will display affection towards you primarily for the purpose of obtaining food.
In fact, many domestic cats are reliant on humans as a source of food.
Whilst cougars do not display such reliance, they also occasionally view humans as a source of nutritional sustenance.
Like the shark, the cougar is an ambush predator and can jump up to 30 feet in order to attack its chosen prey.
To put this into perspective, 30 feet is the equivalent of 1 30ft long ruler or 30 1ft long rulers.
Before I went to Canada, the prospect of being attacked by a cougar whilst walking through the woods never occurred to me.
Now, however, every little sound that I hear has the potential to be a cougar.
I do not understand why I am afraid of mice.
Unlike sharks and cougars, mice tend not to display aggression towards people.
Logically, I know that the extent of the damage that a mouse could physically inflict if it came into contact with my body is basically non-existent.
However, logic is not always a reliable tool with which to combat fear.
In fact, when faced with fear, my brain tends to short-circuit and bypass logic completely.
I know that mice look like this.
However, under the influence of fear, my brain refuses to acknowledge this fact and the way in which I react to the presence of a mouse is indicative of a much more threatening appearance.
The fact that I am scared of mice despite their diminutive appearance leads me to think that I am afraid, not of the mouse itself, but of the way in which it moves.
Mice move with a randomness and unpredictability which can be seen to mimic the unforeseeable nature of life.
Human beings are by far the scariest animals on the planet.
Our superior intellect and natural creativity has enabled us to become the Earth’s current apex species.
However, our capacity to think beyond ourselves and our direct biological needs has also been the source of some very scary things.