Driven (away) by fear

Yesterday I was reminded of one of the moments where fear really kept me away from something that I wanted.

I was six years old, and Star Wars was in theaters. Somehow I'd managed to get the Star Wars bug that was permeating the young boys of my generation. My parents got me the comic books and the figures. Eventually we agreed that we would go see it in the movie theater. We got to the parking lot of the theater (Looking back on this I'm sure that my parents had moved heaven and earth to arrange this family moment together) and were about to get out of the car to get the tickets for the movie.

I was familiar with the story of Star Wars. I'd read through the comic book and knew that Luke destroyed the Death Star. And now we were mere hours from seeing that in movie form.

When I was younger my parents took me to a planetarium show at the Smithsonian museum. I think the show had a bit about stellar evolution in it or something because I remember very vividly that there was something in there about a super nova. The narrator talked about what happened with a super nova. A dot (representing the star about to go nova) got larger and larger on the screen. Then, boom, the dot exploded. The earth trembled, lights flashed, and my young mind freaked out.

I was under the seat for the rest of the planetarium show.

And now, I was about to see a movie where the climax of it had something go boom near the end. A Death Star, exploding. My mind was transported to that terrifying moment. Never mind the rest of the film, all I could focus on was that moment, and that I would have to endure it.

I told my parents that I didn't want to see the movie. In the parking lot. After they had moved whatever heaven and earth to get to that point.

I won't say my parents were pleased, but my dad relented and we went home.

I saw Star Wars years later when it was broadcast on TV. I felt foolish for being so afraid about the explosion at the end. It wasn't until many years later that I was on a date with my then-girlfriend-now-wife where I saw it in the theater (and by then George Lucas had started his "special editions" tinkering).

I got the opportunity to see that planetarium show again when I was much older. I remembered the dot, getting larger and larger. I braced for what terrified younger me. When it finally exploded I wondered what terrified me so much back then. The dome flashed a little bit and the thinnest explosion fell out of the speakers. I think I'd heard worse explosions in the Space Invaders arcade machine.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I seen Star Wars in the theater. I mean, it wasn't like my enthusiasm for the film could have improved any. I still to this day remember minutiae and trivia that would bore a Bantha to tears. I wonder though if I had stood up to my fears instead of being driven by them. What would I have mustered the courage to do in the rest of my life instead of sitting in the parking lot hoping that someone would take me home.

Remember, sometimes we give way more power to the things that frighten us than they actually have. Sometimes what is terrifying is no more than a dot on a screen accompanied by some white noise and flashing lights.