task 12: irrational fears, and how to overcome them.
For I speak as one who sometimes feels as if their entire existence is predicated upon irrational fears, of many and various hues. Honestly, you don't know the half of it.
All my greatest fears centre around attempting any form of forward motion which doesn't involve me placing my feet directly on the ground. Swimming, cycling, driving, skating, ski-ing: these all terrify me. (OK, I've never actually tried ski-ing. But I can hazard a reasonable guess.) Hell, even chuffing pogo sticks scare me. In fact, the only exceptions I can think of are donkeys, tricycles and space hoppers. None of which get you very far in today's fast-moving modern world.
However, I don't intend to talk about any of these fears today. Firstly, I have already covered similar ground elsewhere. Secondly, I am demob-happy at the prospect of a fortnight's holiday (starting in less than two hours' time), and am thus in no mood for cathartic purging. (Besides, we did enough of that two tasks ago.)
And thirdly: I'm not convinced that these fears are truly irrational. Because to me, they make perfect sense. I have a terrible sense of balance, lousy bodily co-ordination, a shockingly weak grasp of speed and distance, the concentration span of a sorry where I am again, oh is this Big Blogger, sorry, miles away. So, you see, I baulk at any activity where there is not just a significant possibility, but a very real probability, that I will hurt myself. Or physically wound myself. Or die.
Or at the very least, look like a total arse and get laughed at, or shouted at, or even worse, patronised. ("Come on Mike! You're doing really well!")
So let us instead turn to a fear which is truly irrational. It's my fear of not being completely up-to-date with developments in contemporary popular music, at all times.
I mean, come on, I'm forty-three. So why is it vital that I know what the forthcoming Girls Aloud single sounds like? Or that I can Form A Position on Hard-Fi, Malcolm Middleton and Clor? Or slag off James Blunt, Jack Johnson and KT Tunstall from an informed viewpoint? Or at least bluff my way through the elementary foothills of grime, crunk, micro-house, reggaeton and Rio baile funk? It's not exactly dignified, is it?
Yeah yeah, I know: John Peel was still doing at at 60. But he had a job to perform, and hence a solid rationale for maintaining his passion. I'm just playing catch-up for catch-up's sake. And besides, who am I trying to impress with all this surfeit of knowledge, most of which I am obliged to keep to myself for fear of boring my friends to tears? (Sometimes, I even catch myself pretending to hesitate before answering a music-related question, just so that I don't look too geeky.)
Further evidence for the prosecution: earlier in the week, I spent the entirety of a two-hour train journey flicking through a specially created playlist on my iPod, containing every track issued on Word magazine's free cover-mounted CDs since last Autumn. Despite the fact that these are probably the dullest series of CDs ever marketed, being almost nothing but a wall-to-wall beige slop of "adult contemporary" timidity and cripplingly limited ambition, I still couldn't risk the possibility that, buried somewhere amongst them, there might be a decent track by a new act which I might otherwise have missed.
And there was, as well. But was it really worth two hours of tedium to excavate a couple of nuggets of goodness, when I could instead have been listening to music which I actually liked? And will these newly excavated nuggets actually enrich my life in any meaningful way at all? Will they heck as like.
So. Apparently, I am also required to devise some sort of cure for this fear.
There can be only one.
Because I've got enough to see me out, you see. Even listening to every track on my iPod, twenty-four hours a day, would take about a month - and the iPod is only the tip of the iceberg. So, perhaps it would be wise not to acquire any new stuff until I was word-perfect on all the old stuff. Which in itself would be a lifetime's work.
Nah, who am I trying to kid? I mean, come on, the new Goldfrapp and the new Super Furry Animals are out on the 22nd, and I still haven't heard all the artists on this year's Mercury Music Prize shortlist, and...
By our irrational fears do we define ourselves. And I'm clinging tightly onto mine.