Thinking About the Apocalypse

A cloudy, sprinkly, breezy sort of day. Autumn color has arrived in full force, although green still dominates most trees. As I drove west to Fall River this morning I noticed the trees along the highway were at peak color, some even bare. We are forecast to have heavy rain and high winds overnight so we shall see how things look tomorrow.

Lately I have found myself in numerous conversations about the state of the world. As you might expect, the tone of those conversations has been bleak at best. It seems everyone who is paying attention feels sad, anxious, and even down right scared.

We are, of course, feeling these things for good reasons. The future is notoriously unpredictable and outcomes uncertain. That said, events in motion tend to continue in the direction of motion until some force redirects them. In this way, events seem very much like objects and would appear to follow the same physical laws, meaning we have good reason for concern.

I was in middle school in rural Illinois during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were stationed at a small Air Force training base adjacent a very small farming town and surrounded by corn and soybean fields. For some reason our tiny base was on the initial targets list, so life for a couple of weeks seemed very precarious.

At school the principal took to broadcasting what seemed like full time newscasts over the public address system, making actually learning anything nearly impossible. The live coverage was even piped into the gym after classes, making basketball practice particularly bizarre.

We may even have had an air raid drill where we were told to take shelter under our flimsy desks. Of course, being mostly a group of military kids we complied with not a little gallows humor, some kids drawing the outline of their shadows in pencil so we could see the images of us that might remain after the blast. I suspect the experience left a lot of us military kids with a permanent sense that obliteration was not only possible but imminently likely.

I imagine that sense of the fragility of life oriented us towards protesting the War in Vietnam, working for civil rights, and throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into the environmental movement. From where I sit, those folks who want to roll back environmental and civil rights laws and who imagine that the boundaries between nations are real, are just not living in the actual world. Heavens, some even seem to find our collective position on the brink of nuclear war and environmental and societal collapse exciting.!

For me, all this is just too familiar and frankly, I much prefer a world in which there is relative safety and humans understand their place in nature as not very important animals. If survival is, as Darwin noted, the result of organisms being well adapted to their environment, then we may well be in deep trouble. Still, Autumn is here, the drought is lessening, and there are innumerable opportunities to be kind to ourselves and each other. This is, after all, going to be a very hard winter for many.

6 thoughts on “Thinking About the Apocalypse

  1. Hear, hear! I’m with you all the way. It seems that for a long time, some folks have felt excited by death and destruction. I remember reading that before World War I, some felt that what was needed was a good cleansing and that war was the answer. Well, they got a good cleansing all right.

  2. Talk has been bleak at the moment. War. Politics. Climate. In your country as well as mine. Have thoughts of the future always been bleak and pessimistic, I wonder? Was there ever a time when the future seemed bright?

    1. Andy, I imagine these things go in cycles. There was too much optimism here after Obama’s election so people were caught off guard by the ultra-right’s counterattack. I believe that after WWII there was a decade or two of optimism here, in spite of the bomb. Imagine this is how things were in Europe just before WWII…. I guess we will see how all this unfolds. By the way, I seem incapable of doing much that is creative as the weight of things feels immobilizing right now. It seems to take an enormous effort to get past the inertia.

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