Let’s start this off with a fact: In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin uses the word love ninety-five times. He uses the iconic phrase survival of the fittest just twice.

Take a moment and think about what you just read. And I mean really think about it. Let it settle in your mind. In a book that is widely recognised as being at the crux of the ideological divide between science and religion because of the writer’s notion that the development of the soul is a normal process of evolution, and not the the works of a divine being, he mentions the idea of love ninety-five times and natural selection as we perceive it only twice…

Twice. It’s mind boggling to learn that the concept that society believes to be the defining declaration of a body of work that sent a fucking firestorm through literature, science, and religion alike, is just a miniscule part of a larger knowledge of human evolution. Yet from a young age the idea of survival is bred into us; we work as individuals and in teams to win prizes or recognition. We align ourselves with strength and dispel those that we consider to be weak. And perhaps worst of all, we allow society to cultivate a belief that we are in constant competition with our fellow man and woman in our quest to be remembered and revered.

…Let’s rewind a little and start over. When I first started planning out this post it wasn’t supposed to sound like this. It was more of an expletive fuelled stab at societal flaws that capitalize on our insecurities and feed our fears. So, let’s add a little context and flesh this out some more…

That funny looking word at the top of the page has a very poignant meaning. Athazagoraphobia is the fear of forgetting; of being forgotten, replaced, or being ignored. The idea probably doesn’t seem too foreign to most readers. Unfortunately, thanks to civilization’s rather skewed modern day philosophies it is an illness that is threatening to consume the societal collectives and subcultures that define us. Someone recently wrote to me and asked what it felt like to be a social influencer. The question came from a brilliant young writer who has a great career ahead of him, and was delivered with the utmost sincerity. Yet while I should have been thrilled to be bestowed with such a title, it actually left me feeling cheap.

When I envision a social influencer I find myself conjuring up images of vanity and social media posts aimed at generating revenue for businesses through spamming newsfeeds with sponsored posts. Here’s me influencing in my new sweatpants. Here I am taking a photo of coffee, or food, or a whatever else. The product isn’t important. But the imbalance in our logic is. We equate the idea of influence with marketing and misconstrue the lines between being educated and informed, with merely being sold a product. An influencer should be someone who is stimulating creativity, or inspiring social change; not hindering individualism and authenticity by capitalising on society’s ever growing desire to be irreplaceable and unforgettable through slick marketing gimmicks.

There is a very big difference between a brand ambassador and a social influencer; or at least there should be. Because marketing and purpose driven content has its place, but our cultural inability to distinguish between the two can have damaging repercussions to our mental and societal health. The idea that we should be persuaded to not only consume, but to compete in doing so, can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration and depression. We shouldn’t be forced to feel as though we are in competition to out consume and out replicate the influencers that we aspire to. The result of this logic is that we become miserable drones blinded by own desire to maximise self interest that we can no longer see the beauty and value of the people that we see as our rivals.

Alright. Let’s get back to Darwin and the battle between love and survival.

I dream of the day where I can refer to myself as a social influencer. I really do. As a writer there a few thrills more rewarding than knowing that the workings that you have produced have the power to inspire the reader. But I want don’t want to encourage my readers to compete or consume. I want to inspire them to be great; not in the bullshit sense of greatness that is pushed upon us on a daily basis either. I don’t want people to believe that my vision of greatness has anything to do with money, or power or status. All that crap is just superficial nonsense that is keeping you distracted and diverting attention away from what is really important.

My vision of greatness is more akin to happiness. It is a life filled with love and contentedness. It is having a heart free from angst and anxiety, an open mind, and an understanding that we are all connected. We aren’t in competition with one another; we never have been. It’s just a bullshit lie that we have been spoon fed for so long now that we are actually beginning to believe it . We don’t need to subscribe to the philosophy of survival of the fittest. We need to practise love and human compassion instead. By doing so, we will find a happiness that will render any fear of being forgotten and replaced obsolete.

I spent years suffering from a form of athazagoraphobia; I have always been riddled by anxiety and depression. One of my greatest fears is that when I die, I will simply cease to exist and will eventually be forgotten. This phobia is one of the many reasons that I write. I want to be happy. I want to love, and to be loved. Yet for so long I thought that happiness would come through being the best. Just like so many others I misconstrued the idea of greatness with being better than the people that I believed myself to be in competition with. I spent years convinced that if I pushed myself  to become the best writer in existence, then people would have to love and remember me. But I was wrong.

It wasn’t until just recently when I stumbled upon the fact that opened this post that I realised that the only person I need to be great in comparison to is the person that I was yesterday. If I love, I will be loved. And if I focus on inspiring my fellow man rather than competing against them, I will touch them and I will be remembered not as the greatest writer that ever lived; but as the greatest version of me that I could have ever been. If following this logic makes me a social influencer in some respect; then I will take pride in the title bestowed upon me.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

38 thoughts on “Athazagoraphobia”

  1. Such a beautiful post ! Thanks so much, you have brought some relief in a bad day and I am happy and grateful I got to read this.

  2. Chris, you give us all hope. So long as we stay true to ourselves, love others as we want to be loved and accepted and stop comparing we all have our place in this world. Inspiring post as usual.

  3. Thank you for your honesty in this post.

    I haven’t been part of the blogging world for very long, but as my followers or minions as I affectionately call them, have grown in number I admit to feeling the pull of ‘will they like my post’? It’s a dilemma I try to navigate carefully. I don’t want to seem like I’m selling myself/selling myself short. I have always been a human on the outs looking in and been just fine with that. Now, I want my writing and life to reach others, touch their hearts and perhaps tech them something about themselves. For weeks I’ve been trying to write a post about what you have…only to edit, edit, edit. *enter curse words here*!

    If I have your permission, I would feel quite blessed to use this post on my own blog as way to better explain myself to my readers? I’m in love with learning about people, and you just have a way with words that I do not.

  4. We took from Darwin what we found useful for personal gain, just as many have done with the Bible over history. We have used these books to justify such behaviors when the basis of both books and the formula for a successful life is cooperation and LOVE. Thanx for this post.

  5. Consider yourself an influencer. I don’t read blogs. I can’t be bothered reading about other people’s lives and interests mostly because I’m a slow reader and can’t afford to dedicate that much time to it. In most cases I just don’t care enough to invest the time to read about someone’s daily goings on who I’ll never meet. But I always read you. I wish I had your talent. I wish I had your passion. I wish I could put in words as eloquently as you do my thoughts and dreams. You inspire me and others I share your blog with. Thank you

  6. You well express, in your own terms, the transition from the selfish ego to the more realised state of knowing that you are part of the one, and that separation was a bit of an illusion.

  7. I’m sorry to expose my inner pedant but it’s ‘Descent’ not Decent. Wonderful article nonetheless. I’m crazy about etymology and find you very eloquent and readable. ~ P ~

  8. I truly like this post – or maybe I should be Darwinian and say I “love” it. You reaffirm my faith that we have the capacity to think through all the BS and come out on the other side with a healthier and happier perspective.

    One point made me think about my own life philosophy. You wrote “One of my greatest fears is that when I die, I will simply cease to exist and will eventually be forgotten.”

    It is absolutely clear to me that I will one day cease to exist and at some point, years later, be forgotten. That strikes me as natural and doesn’t scare me at all. In fact, it helps me to focus on THIS life, this time, the people in front of me, the people I can affect in some positive way, however small. Add all those moments up over a whole lifetime, add on their ripple effect over space and time and generations . . . the sum is no small or insignificant one.

  9. It seems to me that peoples with more oral tradition tend to forget less about persons.
    This also counts for “the olden times.”

    I’ll explain:
    I recall a gathering at my grandmother’s funeral: a few very old ladies sat together and talked about people. They would start with someone present, asking who s/he was, then went back in time talking about his/her parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, great-uncles, great-aunts, etc. These old ladies knew a lot of information concerning each of the long-gone people they talked about; where they had lived, what they did in life, whom they had married, where the spouse came from, where they had traveled, etc.
    I have noticed similar “living memories” in Africa.

    Nowadays, I’m happy if I remember the names of my nephews and niece, but have no idea of the names of their spouses, nor what kind of travels they might have done, nor what jobs they are working, etc.
    I guess one could practice remembering at least family members, and where they come from… 🙂

  10. This may be why Eastern Orthodox Christians sing “Memory Eternal” at a persons funeral, then during every Sunday liturgy for a year, and have memorial services. I love the word Athazagoraphobia and will add it to my own person list of words. And thank you for liking my blog!! 🙂

  11. If by influencer you mean will this post make a difference for the better in people’s lives, you have succeeded. What you write about love vs. survival of the fittest in this ‘world-view-altering’ book is mind-bogging. And think how many of us will be spending time in conversations with friends and family telling about this?!! I would say that’s pretty wide influence 🙂

  12. Wow. Am I glad you found me and my blog so I could come over here and follow yours! These were powerful, thoughtful, thought-provoking words that I ate up like ice cream. Chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge. You make sense here You speak of the soul, not of the outside stupidities of the human race. You speak of what’s inside us, if we only take the time to look. Keep looking, Chris; and keep on helping us look too.

  13. Chris,
    You are an inspiration….an inspiration of one’s soul. We should all strive to be better than we were yesterday – that is spot on. In our quest to be better we will love better and when we can love better humankind benefits. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading your other posts.

  14. Do you think that this affliction, Athazagoraphobia, is something that has flourished just lately? From with you state here, you do say “today’s society” is where this illness lies. If your answer is yes, it hasn’t been since recently that Athazagoraphobia is touching so many, I’d have to agree with you. I’m embarking on the years of being called a senior is a few years, and I know that the only person I have to do better than is myself as I was yesterday (, as you mentioned), What boggles my mind is the question: Why should this affliction have such power now? What did my generation get that the ones after mine didn’t? Is it something environmental? Is it something that isn’t taught anymore? Is there such a change in the body that has brought this on? One thing I do believe is that whatever this is, it’s one of the main influences in the decline of the species.

  15. At first glance, I adamantly disagreed with the phrase “the only person I need to be great in comparison to is the person that I was yesterday”, because I don’t believe that we deserve to be cast in harsh juxtaposition to anyone, even ourselves. But I think my initial opposition came from a common misunderstanding we have of greatness. In truth, greatness doesn’t have to mean better, faster, stronger; though it’s often perceived to be.
    Today, we can become greater than we were yesterday in simple, pure ways: by recognizing different truths, by feeling lighter, and by holding more compassion for yesterday’s self.
    Excellent post, Chris.

  16. Dear Chris, I very much like your plea for chucking our destructive competitiveness.

    As a student of nature, I would only like to point out that you are mistaken about “We aren’t in competition with one another; we never have been. It’s just a bullshit lie that we have been spoon fed for so long now that we are actually beginning to believe it.” In nature, it is indeed the other sheep that all sheep compete with rather than the wolves, for it is the slowest, sickest, or weakest sheep which get eaten by the wolves leaving the rest to propagate and shape the next generation. It is how evolution primarily works and how it has worked for most of our animal ancestors. Thus, intraspecies competition and the competitive instincts which align with it are things we have inherited from our animal ancestors.

    Still, the special power which has made us humans become a terribly powerful life form is not so much our intelligence nor our use of opposable thumbs, but our ability to join forces and cooperate. This has made advanced civilization and technology possible. Therefore, IMHO, we should conclude that in order to be the best humans we can be, we should indeed chuck the animal instincts which continue to have us go for each others’ throats, subdue, and exploit each other, and instead learn to live in harmony with one another along our most recent and noble instincts (the truly human ones). Not only can this lead to greater personal growth but a healthier society of man in which we can all thrive. At least that’s my take on the topic. I hope I managed to come across even though the processes behind evolution somehow elude many people.

  17. “…the only person I need to be great in comparison to is the person that I was yesterday.”

    What a beautiful and poignant sentiment. And what a great way to approach each day. I’ve definitely struggled with this same concern about being remembered or leaving a mark with my writing, and I’ve never been able to describe it to anyone. If I ever come across the need to explain it again, I may very well just direct them to this post.

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