This all starts with a headline on MSN.co.uk. Please don't ask me why I was reading news on MSN.co.uk. I KNOW. But I was at work. Work makes us do all sorts of things we never expected to do. The headline was: "Deadly Plagues of the Future: Four potentially lethal viruses that we really need to be more aware about."
I didn't read the article. I wanted to. I NEARLY CLICKED. But I know myself and I know that that would not have been a good idea.
The problem is, you see, that I'm really very susceptible to this sort of thing. Ask the Man. Every time there's a news story about, say, a woman whose left pinky fell off because she drank seven gallons of river water, I freak out and run into his arms and cry, "BUT WE WENT PUNTING SIX MONTHS AGO! I splashed some river water on my arm! Am I going to lose my left pinky? Because I like my left pinky! It's the finger I use to press the shift key! Which comes in handy because I TYPE IN ALL CAPS A LOT!"
And he has to say something like, "No, it will be fine. You aren't going to lose your left pinky." I think it pains him to have to state something so obvious over and over and over again. Because I'll forget about it for a few minutes and then we'll be watching something on iPlayer, and there will be a close up of a murder suspect's left hand, and I'll remember about the evil river parasites that eat left pinkies and I'll say, "but the woman! She lost her left pinky! And the newspaper! It said that we should all be careful!"
And he'll say, "You're going to be fine." And I'll say, "Okay."
And then ten minutes later I'll go to get a glass of water and remember the woman who drank seven galleons of Thames sludge and lost her left pinky and I'll say,
"I really, really don't want to lose my left pinky."
And he'll bang his head against the wall until he's created a hole large enough to crawl through and then he'll run screaming down the street: "I'm free! I'm free!"
And I'll sit and stroke my left pinky.
So the fact that these stories appear ALL THE TIME makes our lives rather difficult. Just as the Man has successfully managed to convince me that the world is not going to shrink to the size of an M&M on Tuesday just because some scientist somewhere said there's a danger that a confluence of strange space events might create a magic shrinking vortex that the Earth might fall into, another news story appears about how your friendly postman is probably a serial killer and guess what? HE KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE. It would be scarily easy to spend your entire life afraid of everything.
And I resent the fact that people are preying on my natural inclination to worry. Because guess what? I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP TO WORRY. But if you give me something extra to worry about, I will worry about it. Do you know how many hours of my life I have wasted because I once saw on "60 Minutes" that YOUR KITCHEN COUNTERS ARE TRYING TO KILL YOU!!!!!!! ?
Of course, the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from reading or watching any of this coverage is that we should all burrow underground and hide for the next 20 years. EXCEPT! There's no fruit underground! So we will get scurvy! So we're screwed!
If you really think about all this, it's very simple: we're all going to die someday. And there's nothing we can do about that. Or, hey, we're all going to have good days and bad days. And there's nothing we can do about that, either. These things are true; these things are things we have always known.
So why do we go on pretending that we can exert some control over the uncontrollable? Why do we seek out things to be afraid of? WHY DO I STILL WANT TO CLICK THAT LINK?
I'd like to say that today marks the beginning of a new era, during which I will not panic every time I read the news. But I probably shouldn't be that optimistic; after all, as soon as I'm done with this blog post, I'm going to wash my hands because I read somewhere that there's probably anthrax on my keyboard. Still, baby steps: I'm not going to live underground in a cave and I'm not going to read about four new deadly diseases and I probably won't spray my kitchen counter with disinfectant every single day because, let's face it, there just isn't enough time to cover all our bases, and even if we did, they'd just come up with something else for us to worry about.