What We Know about Fear

Another year, another shark week.

Yes, I’m tuned and glued to another week of bad shark bite reenactments and worse theme music. And of course, there are great whites leaping to catch seals, blood in the water, and survivor stories.

And it’s actually the latter that I enjoy the most. The tale invariably unfolds: someone is surfing, fishing, or kayaking at an inopportune time of the day: early morning or dusk. They are minding their own business when they feel like they’ve been hit by a freight train. They see blood, and sometimes nothing else, as they try to fight off the thrashing or they lose consciousness. Then, they lose an arm. They lose a leg. They lose a hand. And in fact, one guy lost his foot. The kicker? (I’m sorry. That was a bad pun that no one deserved). The shark didn’t even eat his foot. The intact appendage washed back up on shore a few days later.

So, the experiences may change. The trauma, the details, even the shark itself may change. But do you know what almost every single survivor of a shark attack says after the event?

“I can’t wait to get back in the water.”

Which is absolutely, totally crazy. I mean, I’ve heard of getting back on the horse, but c’mon. That’s a horse. It has teeth, not razor blades. What are these people thinking?

Well, they’re probably thinking that their worst fear of the ocean, almost losing their life, has been realized. After that, there really isn’t much to be afraid of anymore. So, why not head back in? In fact, there may be a certain comfort in the idea of lightning not (hopefully) striking twice. Once you’re struck, maybe that’s enough.

Now, this pretty much confirms what we understand about fear. Really, people aren’t afraid of spiders, sharks, or stuff. We’re really frightened of the unknown, what we can’t predict. So, when shark attacks happen, this fear sort of dissipates for these people because they’ve already stared it in the face and come out on the other side. They know, and so, they aren’t afraid.

In the end, this could be a really extreme positive message about facing your fears. But you don’t have to go swimming at dawn to feel like you’ve conquered your fright. You simply need to stop letting your past affect your future, except for offering helpful hints once in awhile.

So really, what it probably means is that you shouldn’t swim at dawn after you’ve had a shark attack. But then again, you shouldn’t be afraid of swimming at any other time of day, either.

Long Live Shark Week

I’ve spared you all from a horrible fate.

You see, I was going to rant about the sanctity of shark week and how it has turned into nothing more than a second “spring break” where women paint great whites on their chests and scream the Jaws theme song. I mean, I love “Bob” the shark as much as the next girl, but is shark week slipping? Last night I watched a man tickle sharks’ noses to put them in a catatonic state. Where is the science!?

As a shark week veteran, I know that the average white shark is anywhere from 13 feet-16 feet long and that a bull shark once swam into freshwater and wreaked havoc in a small New Jersey town at the turn of the century. I know how to avoid a shark attack, and I can even remember who is going to die and who is going to live in almost every shark attack they show during the week.

know my sharks. So, why haven’t I learned anything this week? Where’s the “discovery”? Do I really have to watch semi-famous people don chain mail suit after chain mail suit just to sit at the bottom of the ocean in a tropical location to see how hard a reef shark can bite them?

I guess I will have to. Because I won’t stop watching shark week. Ever. As long as they have it, I will sit down and watch it. I love everything about these majestic, absolutely horrifying fish. Maybe my fear has simply turned into fascination over the years. But I refuse to smear shark week’s name in mud (or blood.) So, I wrote a few sharky haikus because I love poetry just as much as I love sharks. I hope you enjoy them.

Great Whites

“They aren’t that great,”

said the tiger shark to his

meal, “they were just first.”

 

Big Fish

He told me it was

huge but couldn’t show me with

only the one hand.

 

Sharp

Your teeth are razors

your skin can make wallets but

you’re a big softy.

 

Personalized Shark Attacks

Red water? Can I

get this flesh wound in something

that matches my eyes?

 

Dead Eyes

Your eyes have a dead

look to them but I see the

future of our seas.

FIN. (GET IT?) 

Long live the shark. Long live shark week.