Harlan Ellison: You Are Not Alone

Harlan Ellison would probably be angry with me for reposting this reassuring and insightful paragraph he wrote in the introduction to his short story collection Shatterday, but I feel that it’s too enlightening not to share:

You are not alone. We are all the same, all in this fragile skin, suffering the ugliness of simply being human, all prey to the same mortal dreads.

When I lecture I try to say this, to say most of the fears you invent—atomic war, multinational conspiracies, assassination paranoias, fear of ethnic types, flying saucers from Mars—those are all bullshit. I inveigh against illogical beliefs and say that the mortal dreads are the ones that drive you to crazy beliefs in Scientology, est, the power of dope, hatred of elitism and intellectual pursuits, astrology, messiahs like Sun Myung Moon or Jim Jones, fundamentalist religions. I try to tell you that fear is okay if you understand that what you fear is the same for everyone. Fear is the eternal price you pay for having gotten into the game in the first place.

What he’s saying is that our external fears are nothing more than acting outs of the mortal dreads we all have but don’t know how to face. “And all we have to stand between us and the irrational crazy chicken-running-around-squawking terror that these mortal dreads lay on us is wisdom and courage.”

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