On the Feeling of Having Left the Oven On

Is everyone nagged by the feeling of having left the oven on, or the door unlocked, or the window open, or do these worries bother mostly those whose personalities predispose them to pessimism and self-doubt?

If the latter, are those plagued by such trivial worries less fervent in faith than those so certain that the oven is off, since it is thoroughly impossible that They could ever make such a silly mistake?

How can we trust in God if we do not trust in ourselves?

And yet, the oven may have been left on, the door unlocked, and the window ajar. Neuroticism is the personality trait most despised, but it is also the trait with the most obvious and immediate survival advantages, if present in moderation. Think of N. N. Taleb’s formula for antifragility, that state in which a thing not only resists but benefits from a stressor: “antifragility is the combination aggressiveness plus paranoia.”*

Whence benign paranoia if not from some healthy measure of neuroticism? The checklist is neuroticism’s finest monument, the contract its most sacred ritual, insurance its holiest temple.

Civilized society depends upon the worry over ovens.

Indeed, is it conceivable that an atrocity has ever been averted because its planner wondered if he had left the oven on, and so packed up the instruments of his confidence to hurry home?

Anxiety is the antidote to fanaticism.

And yet, and yet: One must be able to set foot out of the house, and there is perhaps no greater act of fanaticism than a first step.

see N. N. Taleb, Antifragile. (New York: Random House, 2012.) p. 161