If only we can name our fears, we can vanquish them. Or so the story goes.
But in this culture, the dread that tops the list is our own mortality, and some of our victories on that front are more Pyrrhic than we’d care to admit. Eternal youth is the elusive goal; what we’ve achieved in quest of it is medicine that lets us linger longer at the far end. The “last scene of all,” Shakespeare called it: “second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” It’s the phase of life that spooks us even more than what comes after.