It’s Terrifying, It’s Terrifying


It’s terrifying to receive a misdiagnosis, especially if it is assumed to be a correct diagnosis when you are first terrified by it. When it later turns out to be a misdiagnosis, your terror, in hindsight, becomes quite misplaced. But the terror never really goes away. Indeed, the terror simply seems to increase despite the relief as the apparent reprieve begins to sink in. It is a strange paradoxical feeling when any good news seems worse than the initial bad news which it replaces.
‘Tom’ and ‘Meg’ are a case in point. Some names immediately indicate old age, a couple that have withstood all the trials and tribulations of a long married life, as well as its joys and successes. Happiness is never single toned. It is a mixture of everything that eventually, in that miraculous hindsight again, becomes a sense of happiness outweighing any sadness. Of course, that process can work the other way. Nothing is clear cut.
But, later, when you learn that Tom and Meg are a young, newly married couple, there is a sudden onrush of ominous thoughts about their future. They may appear happy now even if appearances conflict with their true sense of sadness when within the four walls of their home. Equally, Tom and Meg may well be as happy as they appear to be, and it is only the onset of time – beyond any predictive abilities – that may bring the sense of sadness, as surely it must.
Still, Tom and Meg may well be one of those rare couples who are destined to be uniformly happy all their lives.
Their mistake was paying for a prediction from a fortune teller on a seaside pier late in the holiday season when the staff were already dismantling some of the pier’s amusements and rides in preparation for winter. At that time of the year, they should have realised that any such occult prognosis was bound to be pessimistic. A feeling of doom that actually stained the very air that swirled above the grey sea. Meg looked through the gaps in the boardwalk and shuddered. She thought she shivered in the chill, but actually she shuddered. There is a difference.
Meg is a pretty girl, Tom a handsome young man. Everything is in front of them, yet they tempt fate by consulting something beyond rational comprehension. Seeking a diagnosis about the future and, by that means, hopefully putting anything sad behind them, rather than in front. But hindsight is terrifying, not reassuring, as I am sure you realise, with your being mature people who have seen it all – in your time. Unlike Tom and Meg when they were young. They had not even learnt to stop tempting fate. They had none of the experience of ‘learning from mistakes’, because they had not yet made any mistakes. Until now.
Yet, I continue to pray that my own hindsight diagnosis recalled above is just a simple misdiagnosis, however terrifying. I was that fortune-teller dressed as Gypsy Rose on the pier. The chill had got to my bones. And even in my mock caravan, there were gaps in the floor. And the sound of dismantling had given me a headache. Anyway, that is my excuse. And you have lived, after all, to a ripe old age together. You were always thus destined to look happy, at least. I hope you don’t mind me writing to you after all these years. I predict you will see this on the new-fangled internet. You know who you are.


— It’s terrifying, it’s terrifying.
— What in particular is terrifying, if not everything?
— Death, the emptiness, nearly everything.
— Nearly everything, you say? What ISN’T terrifying about death and emptiness?
— The uncertainty, however small, that death isn’t complete and utter emptiness, the tiniest doubt that death will not be as bad as we anticipate, yes, that sliver of hope, that splinter of heaven, that scintilla of human creativity and love, that spark of endeavour: none of THEM are terrifying. It is terrifying, though, that those splinters may not exist at all, and the vast remainder of existence is quite as terrifying as we always feared, outweighing the scintilla or spark to the ratio of infinity to next-to-nothing.
— Hardly worth putting such utter unlikelihood into the equation at all, I’d say, then. But, thinking about it, IF you accept the certainty of eventual emptiness, then such emptiness will at least not be disappointing, even if it is terrifying.
— With emptiness, there can be no hindsight of disappointment or anything else. Emptiness simply is. Empty before and after. Or it may as well be empty before if it’s empty after, because there will be nothing left to remember the before if there is no after in which to be able to remember the before. If death is empty, then life before death may as well have been empty all along for what worth it is during life after death, except it cannot be called life at all after death if death is empty.
— Are you saying that if death is empty, then life is automatically also empty?
— Yes.
— Then how are we having this discussion at all?
— Hmmm…this conversation is sparked by that splinter of hope that exists in the human heart made manifest.
— Our conversation?
— Yes, this conversation in itself is a fleeting moment of hope in an endless eternity.
— If this moment, so-called, is part of eternity, then that moment of time, that scintilla of existence, that spark of consciousness, is eternal, too. A fraction of eternity must be as huge as eternity itself. Which means…
— Yes?
— That we are due to be talking like this for the rest of our tiniest fraction of eternity.
— That’s terrifying.
— Indeed, terrifying and, let’s admit it, pretty vacuous.
— It’s terrifying, it’s terrifying.



I’d like to check the health of your religion, its durability, its truths or lies. I won’t keep it for long, just long enough to let it settle under my various instruments of spiritual diagnosis. And separated enough for it to reside in my care without its tapping into your soul for sustenance. In other words, you must disown it completely while it is with me. This means you will need to live without it until I have finished. I promise that, after I have removed it from you, I shall take care of it and use the minimum of time to make my diagnosis. What’s that, you ask? How do you know that I will not make a misdiagnosis and will my methods of examination actually affect it in any way? Well, those are good questions. Diagnosis is not usually a two way thing, but I can never know for certain that my diagnosing it will mean that it will not diagnose me in return. As to my diagnostic ability, I can assure you that I have carried out this procedure for many years, dealing with every single religion. And I have returned all of them to their owners stronger than they came to me. My own God is Agnostic, after all. So have faith and I shall begin. Are you sitting comfortably?

1 Comment

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One response to “It’s Terrifying, It’s Terrifying

  1. Die agnostic and at least hope remains.

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