Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sensible Phobias

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:

  1. Mustophobia : fear of mice or rats
  2. 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.


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Minority Geeks

I’m often treated like a major Geek on account of going to book festivals. The expressions of horror and/or absolute boredom that cross some people’s faces when  I mention going to a book festival are quite funny.  Perhaps more surprising is the number of people who don’t even know what a book festival is. “Is it a big room full of books?” one person enquired. Err, no, that would a book shop, or a library. “Is it people coming from all over to sell rare and/or cheap books?” Err, no, that would be a book fair.

I like to think that book festivals are like music festivals, only quieter.  And while I understand it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I feel we are all Geeks in our own way. For instance, I regularly have to listen to football supporters drone on endlessly about their team and that bores me to tears.  Quite a few football fans I know are not only enthusiastic about their own team, they completely refuse to believe I’m not in the slightest bit interested and will go on and on with the same fervour as Born Again Christians looking for a new convert.  The thing about football is, it’s everywhere, there’s just no getting away from it where I live.  I wonder how non-readers would feel if I spent hours trying to get them to see the merits of a particular novel I was reading, or if hours of TV coverage was dedicated to book lovers, or if they had to watch their hard-earned tax money being spent on paying for the police as book lovers took to the streets and caused mayhem when their preferred nominee for the Booker Prize failed to win? Football supporters don’t see themselves as Geeks, of course.  However, when you think about it, the only difference is their area of obsession is more popular than mine so they have comfort in numbers.

I am a Minority Geek.


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