I have a history of being deathly afraid of snakes.
Which is funny, since snakes have been a barely-noticeable part of my life.
A theory is that part of the fear stems from how I idolized Indiana Jones as a child. My brother and I used to tirelessly perform Indiana Jones-related skits in our backyard. Indy’s major weakness was snakes, so perhaps the phobia was inherited to some degree from fiction.
Part of it may be genetic (my mother gets major heebie-jeebies from snakes). Part of it may be my religious upbringing (sin started after a snake tempted humans).
But ya know what? It doesn’t really matter too much how the fear began. Because now it’s over. I think. Mostly.
Here are some pictures and videos from my first time truly transcending the illusory barriers between human and snake. Thank you to Jennifer for this wonderful opportunity, and Steven for the brilliant camerawork.
The awe of discovery was prevalent in me as I realized that a snake’s skin doesn’t feel all that much different than human skin.
I’d always imagined a slimy and/or scaly texture, but the skin is rather quite silky.
In that last video, I sealed this transcendent treaty with a quick smooch.
My ultimate takeaway from this, is that so many of our fears as humans are unfounded.
Sure, a snake could bite me.
So could a dog, a cat, a human.
Why is a snake bite more terrifying?
Only 7% of over 3,000 kinds of snakes are venomous with enough potency to kill a human.
I live in the Midwest United States, where the chances of getting bitten by a venomous snake are extremely miniscule.
Every snake I have ever seen encountered in the wild (less than five times in my entire life) got away from me as quickly as it possibly could.
It’s almost as if I’m the one to be terrified of, not the snake.
So, what have I been so irrationally afraid of my whole life, when it comes to these beautiful creatures?
I think it comes down to this:
Lack of familiarity, minimal exposure, and perceived differences.
All of these hindrances melt away rather easily in the light of closeness, curiosity, and exploration, all guided by loving intention.
A snake’s body may look different from mine, and its experience of the world is undoubtedly rather superficially radical from what I know.
But both a snake and I have a spark of sentience amazingly contained within a fused-together vessel of flesh and blood. That in and of itself is a tremendously noteworthy commonality, but that’s not where it ends.
We both experience fear. We both experience the deep and primal need to survive. We both respond to the emotions and temperaments of other beings. We both respond to love.
Both the snake and I depend on the natural arrangement of existence for our survival. We breathe, eat, and excrete as though we somehow know what we’re doing, but this is all guided by forces entirely beyond our personal control.
We’re just passengers on this crazy trip of existence; it’s a trip where allies are preferable to enemies, every single time. Fear loses its bite in the presence of understanding, closeness, and empathy.
If anyone wonders if my mind has strayed from snakes to sociological and human cultural contexts, well, of course it has.
But I won’t beat you over the head with it. Not this time.
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