I like to point and mock at other people’s phobias but think mine should be treated with the utmost seriousness. This puts me on dubious ground, obviously, but I think one of my phobias is the only logical reaction to the issue in question.
I have a friend who is phobic about buttons (koumpounophobia). Specifically single buttons that might be lying about and not attached to a garment. Even more specifically, single buttons with bits of loose thread still attached to them. After I’d stopped laughing when he told me about this, I started quizzing him about the origin to this phobia and discovered he didn’t have clue. Not only that, he seemed to have no curiosity about it, he hadn’t asked his parents about when it started and what might have caused it; rather he just seemed to accept a fear of buttons was in some way inevitable. I have two phobias and know the exact moment each one developed:
- Mustophobia : fear of mice or rats
- Apeirophobia: fear of infinity
My fear of rats (somewhat outrageously, this phobia is lumped in with one about mice. Personally, I think it deserves a word all of its own) developed after a drama I watched on television years ago. It was one of those mounting tension scenarios where a woman arrives home to her very rural home to find the phone cut off. Shortly after her husband arrives home and they start to hear scratching noises. The whole thing culminates in the pair of them huddled in a room and the camera pans to their terrified faces as finally the rats burst through the door to eat them alive. I don’t think there is an actual shot of a rat at any point in the drama but that didn’t stop me from practically wetting myself and being terrified of them ever since. I even felt sick when I watched the cartoon rat in Ratatouille and it wasn’t because the film was pants.
My apeirophobia started around the age of 12 or 13. I was lying in bed one night, pondering about the universe, as you do. My thought process went something like this “I wonder what’s outside the universe? …. Other universes…. the cosmos … what’s outside of them? Nothing. Wait a minute, there can’t be nothing because nothing is always something. [heart starts to beat a little harder] Heaven! Heaven is outside the universes! [I was not brought up in any religion but the so-called non-denominational school pumped this stuff out fairly regularly. I was much relieved to draw on heaven at this moment] Phew! That was close. Now I know why people believe in heaven. Stops you worrying about the universe. I think I’ll believe in heaven from now on. It sure fills up a lot of unexplained space. [Start falling asleep until eyes suddenly snap open again] Wait a minute! What’s outside of heaven? Nothing! But it can’t be nothing because nothing is always something.”
And that was it, I was in full-blown ‘pass me a paper bag’ panic attack as the epic scale of my insignificance finally dawned on me. Recently, though, I’ve watched a few scientists talking about what they’ve learned about this universe and other universes, but when asked about infinity, they all start to look a bit shifty. I heard one scientist say “I can’t conceive of that. I don’t like to think about it.” No shit, Sherlock. So my basic argument is, if the universe nerds are all a bit apeirophobic, then a fear of infinity is a pretty sensible phobia to have.
I’d invite a discussion on that last statement but, obviously, I’m not going to be able to join in on account of the palpitations. You have no idea what a challenge it has been to get this blog written at all. it’s not easy typing with one hand and blowing into a paper bag with the other. Instead, I think you should all share your phobias so I can distract myself with a little bit of pointing and mocking.