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Karen Thompson Walker: What fear can teach us

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One day in 1819, 3,000 miles off the coast of Chile, in one of the most remote regions of the Pacific Ocean, 20 American sailors watched their ship flood with seawater. They'd been struck by a sperm whale, which had ripped a catastrophic hole in the ship's hull. As their ship began to sink beneath the swells,the men huddled together in three small whaleboats. These men were 10,000 miles from home,more than 1,000 miles from the nearest scrap of land. In their small boats, they carried only rudimentary navigational equipment and limited supplies of food and water. These were the men of the whaleship Essex, whose story would later inspire parts of "Moby Dick." Even in today's world, their situation would be really dire, but think about how much worse it would have been then. No one on land had any idea that anything had gone wrong. No search party was coming to look for these men. So most of us have never experienced a situationas frightening as the one in which these sailors found themselves, but we all know what it's like to be afraid. We know how fear feels,but I'm not sure we spend enough time thinking aboutwhat our fears mean. As we grow up, we're often encouraged to think of fear as a weakness, just another childish thing to discardlike baby teeth or roller skates. And I think it's no accident that we think this way. Neuroscientists have actually shown that human beings are hard-wired to be optimists. So maybe that's why we think of fear, sometimes as a danger in and of itself. "Don't worry," we like to say to one another. "Don't worry," we like to say to one another.

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 30 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 95
Posted by: 4237 on Jan 7, 2013

Imagine you're a shipwrecked sailor adrift in the enormous Pacific. You can choose one of three directions and save yourself and your shipmates -- but each choice comes with a fearful consequence too. How do you choose? In telling the story of the whaleship Essex, novelist Karen Thompson Walker shows how fear propels imagination, as it forces us to imagine the possible futures and how to cope with them.

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