Last night I was sitting on a park bench with a woman and we had tumbled deep into a good conversation. We reached a moment of silence and stared at the lake when she asked, “What’s your biggest fear?”
I paused for a moment to think.
“Existential or terrestrial?” I asked. She obviously had no idea what I meat, so I elaborated. “Like, in a deep, spiritual way, or like spiders?”
“Just whatever comes to your mind first when I ask that.”
“Well then, deep and violent water and the creatures of the deep. I’m terrified of them but I’m also fascinated by them. I could look at pictures online of deep sea creatures for hours, and every time I hate it but I love it.”
I apologized for rambling on when she probably just wanted the short answer, but she urged me to continue.
“Ancient people,” I explained, “looked out at the water, at the wild waves and torrential storms, and associated water with chaos. It’s why Genesis 1 shows God taking the watery mess of a planet and ‘separating waters from waters’ and creating order from the chaos.
“There is something deeply human and primordial about being terrified of the depths. They can consume you. They are bigger than you can fathom. You will not win against the waters.”
I went on, “But that’s not all. Have you ever wondered why there is an entire week dedicated to people watching sharks on TV, but there is no Lion Week or Mountain Lion Week? It’s because sharks are creatures that can dwell in the depths and survive. They can withstand the abyss. You add the terror of the deep water itself to a creature that can survive them, and you have Shark Week. Lion Week would be different. You would look on the land and say, ‘look there’s a lion,’ and there isn’t much mystery to its location or activity.
“Sharks though, and all marine life that defies the natural habit of breathing air, present a unique horror. It’s the ancient terror of a predator mixed with the fear of the chaotic liquid. You don’t know where they are or when they’ll strike. They can survive the ocean — something the strongest human swimmers could only do for a few hours max.”
She quietly looked at me, absorbing my wild ramblings.
“Sorry, I’ve probably put way too much thought into this.”
“No, no! I loved it,” she politely replied.