There is beauty in horror — How it is misused is the real terror

By Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor

There is beauty in horror, in the grotesque and in the images that pop into our heads as we fall asleep each night. It is essential in life, I feel, to be scared by things. It draws us forward — into unfamiliar territory and into areas where we can shine, be heroic and confront the profane and decrepit.

I mean this both with fictional horror — the beasts and thoughts that become prevalent in the stories told around campfires and on the screens across America’s cinemas; as well as in the mundane horrors — of meeting new people, of changing one’s mind about deeply held beliefs and of confronting the most horrifyingly complex thing of all — the world inside our minds.

I remember being a child and reading Christian author Randy Alcorn’s best-selling book “Heaven,” and being fascinated by the ethereal realm beyond that of the material. I remember my parents and those in my church quoting passages like Revelation 21:4.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

I remember being told that there would be no pain in heaven, no challenges to overcome. No fear — no terror. I think this has always bothered me. While I may not appreciate it in the moment, I love the creeping feeling of unease. The mind’s creative power to scare, and the specific ways in which our survival instincts have evolved to give us a fright is incredibly fascinating.

Many people are unique in their fears. I, for one, am terrified of bees. So much so that I flinch instinctively if even a fly buzzes past my ear. I’ve had this since I was a child. My parents, friends and colleagues all know this about me. It is me, something that I might miss if it were to go away entirely. It also provides opportunities for growth.

As a young child, I played baseball in the backyard of my Colorado house — the greenbelt beyond my fence that stretched for acres serving as my outfield. The Texas Sage shrubs that surrounded our yard always attracted pollinators, and whenever I would see one, I would become instantly terrified and rush into the house — leaving everything behind and refusing to go outside. I’ve moved on since then, gladly. Now I only clam up and wish I could run inside. This showcases how fear has developed me as a person. I used to be completely paralyzed by fear, but I have slowly taken control of it, becoming a better person in the face of my terror.

I understand that many fears come from very intense past traumas with abusive partners or loved ones. I feel as if it would be disrespectful to treat my fear of bees like the very real and dangerous fears of people with trauma and anxiety. The beauty in horror, specifically in written and visual mediums, comes from the fact that it is a safe way to experience unsafe environments or ideas. When real life systems of oppression work to create fearfulness in ordinary people, based on race, gender or sexual orientation, among others, this is a corrupting of fear — utilizing the evolutionary responses of humans and us-versus-them dichotomies to enforce hierarchies and create pain within subjects of such oppression.

Therefore, I believe, in order to fully utilize the complete benefit of horror, and to see the beauty within the horror, it is essential to fight against such systems and ideas. The benefits of horror, serving as a driving force in developing oneself and learning more about one’s mind are lost when it is used in the wrong manner.

I believe that horror is beautiful. I believe it has the capability to bring people together, and develop a better world. I wish to be scared, and I want to feel frightened by things. I don’t want to live in a world of complete ease. There is no advancement — personal or societal — in such a world.

The goal of horror and the terrible can exist without being a byproduct of harmful ideology and action. It can serve — in its best iteration — to entertain, to give a joyous rush of motivation and unease and to drive forward our own character development. In finding what we’re afraid of, we are better able to understand ourselves and others. And by finding out what scares us, in the realm of the imaginary as well as in the physical world; we can better understand what it means to be human, and connect ourselves with others who feel similar to us. We can work to make this planet a place in which horror is a beautiful thing, and not profaned through the discrimination of others.