There’s a line in Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus that I’ve always found slightly irksome. I don’t know if it came from Dalton Trumbo‘s screenplay or the original Howard Fast novel, but…
Tony Curtis to Kirk Douglas: “Are you afraid to die, Spartacus?”
Douglas to Curtis: “No more than I was to be born.”
Babies don’t have the first idea of what fear is. That comes later when they enter school and are challenged and sometimes chewed up by the various meat-grinder rituals. All babies know is that the womb is warm, safe and comfortable, and that they’d prefer not to deal with the unknown, not to mention the elements. Not “fear” but reluctance.
As for Curtis’s line, everyone is afraid of the moment of mortal transition (i.e., crossing the footbridge, the ceasing of breath) and no one wants to be eaten by crocodiles. But no one really “fears” death as much as senses the terrible infinite loss of the great rapture of living.
A clip from David Jones 1983 film of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal:
Kingsley: They say boy babies cry more than girl babies.
Irons: Do they?
Kingsley: You didn’t find that to be the case?
Irons: Uhm…yes, I think we did. Did you?
Kingsley: Yes. (beat) What do you make of it? Why do you think that is?
Irons: I suppose boys are more anxious.
Kingsley: Boy babies. What the hell are they anxious about? At their age?
Irons. Well…facing the world, I suppose. Leaving the womb and all that.
Kingsley: What about girl babies? They leave the womb too.
Irons: That’s true. It’s also true they don’t make such a fuss about it.