A Conversation with Steven Pressfield: Author of “The Profession”. December 15, 2011
As a kid that was simple. Everything. No, not really. Many things were frightening but I’ll never forget the one thing that terrified me was hearing the words: “PLEASE STAND BY! We interrupt this program to bring you the following bulletin.” I can’t remember the first time I heard them coming from the TV. More importantly I can’t remember when I first linked those words to my fear that they were about to announce the end of the world.
I guess I should explain a bit about why these words were so terrifying. I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s. I was brought up in the heart of the Cold War. Cold War…kids today have no idea what is was like to live in the shadow of a nuclear attack. These things were imbedded in our consciousness. I even have vague memories of drills we did in case the bombs were dropped. The late 50’s all anyone ever talked about was the need to have a bomb shelter. Fear ran wild…and for a kid with a vivid imagination like me the words: “PLEASE STAND BY! We interrupt this program to bring you the following bulletin,” could only mean one thing.
I remember watching television one day when a bulletin came on–I was alone so I hide behind a sofa and stuck my fingers in my ears. I didn’t want to hear the man announce the coming end of the world. After a minute or so, after there were no big flashes of light, I unplugged my ears long enough to hear something about Cuba and a man named Castro. No mention of bombs or the end of the world. So I listened as the announcer talked about Castro’s revolutionary army marching into Havana. It was January 8, 1959 and I was 8 years old.
For some reason the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 didn’t scare me nearly as much as an incident that would happen just over a year later. But that isn’t to say it didn’t affect others…especially my mother. The days leading up to Kennedy’s address to the nation on Monday night, October 22. My mother had had two teeth pulled the Friday before and ended up in bed doped up to the eyeballs to deal with the pain. Being in bed meant only one thing to anyone in my family back in those days–reading. Over that weekend my mother devoured the two hottest books of 1962: Fail-Safe and Seven Days in May. Two very scary books that played on the public’s fear during those dark days of the Cold War.
For some reason I knew it was a scary moment but I was assured by the man who was our President: the young and inspiring, John F. Kennedy.
Just over a year later he was gone and I had my next fearful moment. I’ll save that story for another time.
As we get older the things that terrify us change. Recently I read a book, The Profession, by Steven Pressfield and it terrified me.