Finalist, 2006 Kids Philosophy Slam
Ryan Adams age 16
Bethpage, New York


The basis of optimism is sheer terror. People gain comfort in the fact that the unpleasant feeling of danger from an event did not happen. They say the glass is half full, while they think, at least the glass did not get knocked over and I did not die of thirst.

Fear is the feeling of perceived risk. From fear, hope is derived. One cannot actually have anything to hope for, if there is no chance it may be in jeopardy. In the overprotective struggle for existence, fear is the driving force of mankind. We fear death, we do not hope to live. We fear starving, we do not hope to eat. And in our day and age, most of all, we fear we will be left behind. We do not sit around and hope someone will help us.

From the beginning, fear is with us. It is so powerful, that it is ingrained into our being to the point where, it is the basis of survival. Humans have two different responses when it perceives danger or becomes afraid. Flight or Fight. We seek to eradicate this fear, by leaving it behind us, or destroying it. But surely, one could say that we have grown past this basic instinct. That we humans, who have split the atom, harnessed energy, and created American Idol are better than this. They would be wrong.

Fear not only motivates us on a biological level, but society today is driven by fear. The economy is stimulated by fear. Even our health is stimulated by fear. People fear that they will be left behind in technology. They fear that they will be cut from the loop if they do not have the newest, fastest computer, so they buy one. People rise and fall because of fear in the stock market or investments.

In a superficial sense, people fear that they will not be happy or they will never find someone if they do not look like what society tells them to look like. This irrational fear is strong enough to cause people to go against human instinct and to not eat. Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, and Bulimia stem from the fear of rejection. Anti-smoking, drug and alcohol free, and even food programs preach fear as a method to stop people from destructive behaviors. If you smoke, you will get lung cancer and die. If you do drugs, you will get addicted, and die. Fear has kept me clean and sober.

Fear also inspires people to do great things. Fear motivated passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 to fight against their attackers and take down the plane in a valiant and heroic effort. In so many ways, fear is the strongest force on the planet. It pushes us to be better, stronger faster, and smarter. Fear will be always be with us, driving us to live to our full potential. And that, does not scare me one bit.

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