Tuesday, April 11

End of the World?

It was 12 hours before Cameron would either face serious complications that would change her forever. Or be dead. Or forced to make a decision for human kind.

Cameron didn’t know this of course. Very few people knew anything was happening at all in fact. Though it concerned everyone, the public was certainly not allowed this knowledge. Only those on the inside knew the irrefutable evidence that spelled the end of mankind at all. And they weren’t ready to reveal it yet. There were no underground fortresses that the rich and powerful could retreat to. It was one of those unavoidable Apocalypses predestined from the beginning of time, starting with the generation of a star many galaxies away.

Movies about the end of the world always had a way around it. There was always a hidden solution that, through the actions and brainpower of one man, could save mankind. How many alien invasions had been stopped against all odds in the movies? How many natural disasters had domino-ed out of control because of human irresponsibility, only to result in the partial yet surmountable devastation of our planet? Movies always had a solution. The questions of how mankind would end usually stemmed from aliens or people, and sometimes mother nature, but despite her bad rep., our mother doesn’t really want the destruction of everyone. Sometimes she punishes with a tsunami, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes. Every now and then she has an ice age or a volcanic eruption, but she generally looks out for her children on the whole, no matter how badly we mistreat her.

Movies were made this way because they were exciting. They were built on a level on which we could identify. People felt so empowered that if disaster struck, they could assume the role of the hero and save the world. Movies often created a scenario spawned from human arrogance to get us mad about the current events that each movie goer--individually--was not responsible, then allowed them to picture themselves saving the day, winning the girl, and receiving countless gratitude from everyone. Even if the audience didn’t see themselves as the hero, they at least agreed there was a hero. Then they left the theater and went about their lives.

If men went out each night and just gazed at the stars, they would realize how insignificant they really were. The sky alone belittles you, then compound the thousands of stars you can see, the trillions you can’t...the galaxies and black holes outnumber each man, woman and child at least 100 to 1. Gazing out at the Universe was enough to capture the curiosity of minds like Galileo, but pretty soon, humans realized it was just too much to handle. That’s why we sleep indoors. That’s why we wait for our favorite television programs to start at half-hour intervals, our lights turned on, our microwaves heating up some processed prepackaged foods, only to be interrupted with a cell phone call from a same-age friend. Once our alarms tell us to wake up, we consume our store-bought food, or not, visit our favorite web sites, shower and brush our teeth. Some of us floss and apply make-up, tweeze eyebrows and shave, make to-do lists and finally, once we’re good and ready–we leave the house. Leaving the house takes a lot of energy. How can you face the world without preparing? That’s insane.

If we’re lucky enough to live in a community of same-wage, same-jobbed workers, our timing might coincide so that we see our neighbors getting into their cars. We take pleasure in waving hello to our neighbors––interacting. The hand wave proves to your neighbors that you are a success. You go out and do things. You see the world. Sometimes, we’ll pass them on the road in a traffic jam, at a stop light, or see their car at a gas station. If not, the same people will be back in their cubicles or offices the next day. We can say hello to them.

If someone’s talented enough, hard work can let them advance their way through the ranks to one day get the reward of a large, fancy office with big glass windows overlooking the sunny horizon. You get to see the other man-built buildings--some bigger, some smaller. You learn to recognize landmarks so that you can point them out to visitors of your mighty palace. You look down at pedestrians marching the Madison Avenue below like ants. And you laugh at how small they look.

Do ants laugh at how big we are? They shouldn’t, right? They should recognize that they are inferior because they are smaller. They might laugh at how big we are. They might laugh at how complicated we make our lives when it is so very simple. You look for a leaf and bring it back. No, they don’t laugh. Ants are too busy running their path to help the colony and help the queen. Their lives are simple, but busy. Ant researchers consider ants productive. Ants are very productive...always running, always following organized lines and paths. Every ant has a job to do, and every ant does it as fast as the next ant.

We agree that ants are productive, as a colony. Therefore, it’s logical to say that the colony is a product of the individuals. Therefore, every ant is productive. But what can a single ant do in the course of its lifetime? Deliver bits of food from one spot to another? How many ants have you squished in your lifetime, just to enjoy its stopped movement? Got ants in your house? Just go to the store and buy some ant killer product. In the meantime, enjoy squishing and stomping as many as you can. Be sure to yell in frustration at their number, or at least grunt, “stupid ants” as your shoe compresses them against your tiled floor.

Over the course of their lifetime, an entire colony does nothing but build an anthill. They manage to sustain their life and reproduce to ensure another generation of ants. They eat and sleep and shit and eat, and when it’s all over, they’ve paved the way for at least as many organisms. So goes the life of the hardworking, successful ant. We’re not even mentioning the unsuccessful ants. Those are generally the ants that find themselves beneath your Nike sneaker or, getting so caught up in their mission to fetch more pieces of potato chip, they fail to notice the impending footsteps of joggers in the park. Squish. Not even so much as that. A squished ant is so insignificant, it does not even make a sound when it is squished. (Try to listen for it next time. It doesn’t exist.)

You, the astute reader, probably think I’m about to point out that humans are just like ants. Sure, we’re on a different scale of importance than them, but we’re on a scale nonetheless. We’re better than all other forms of life, so that means we’re kickass, right? I know, we are kickass. We’re better than any other organism we know of in almost any measurable trait. So what if we can’t lift six times our body weight like an ant? That’s not important. We can’t fly? Not important. We can’t breath underwater? Not important. The important thing is that we’re smarter. That’s why we’re the best. The most advanced. The most significant of EVERYTHING that ever lived. If you wanted to be a jerk, you could start getting ahead of me: “But we’re not as significant as EVERYTHING, Mr. Author. What about people that lived before us? Some people were more important than we are.”

I was getting to that. Only one man can fill the title of “Most Significant Man Ever to Live.” Everyone else that has ever existed is inferior. Who was the most significant man? To win this honor, they must have accomplished a lot, been a super-genius, had contact with all the current technology, all the right people, received the best education, and paved the way for future generations. He must have worked his whole life, preferably a LONG life, to make a difference for as much of mankind as possible. His innovations and contributions would have been years ahead of his time, not a few months ahead of the next leading scientist....Did I say scientist? Were scientists the most significant? Inventors? World Leaders? War generals?

No one has ever been so superior to clearly, indisputably be labeled “THE” best. We break it down and say so-and-so was “one of” the best, or “the leader...a leader... in the field....at the time.” And this is good enough. Everyone can’t be the best. We can only do what we can do.

We were born into a certain part of the world in a certain culture, with a certain amount of money, with a certain amount of possessions. We were born with a certain family, living next to certain neighbors, near a certain school where we would befriend certain people. Our family teaches us the language of the area, then we are educated and trained according to our upbringing to meet societal and family standards. Sometimes we are born into an inner-city ghetto, raised by Tibetan monks or orphaned and forced into prostitution before we are teenagers. Sometimes we are raised by the King of Qatar. We’re generally born male or female, healthy or diseased, Asian or African, with the genes that determine whether we’ll be 6'3" or 4' 11". It’s fun to see how different we are--how we’re all born into different lives. From afar, we’re all the same.

Ants actually have several jobs. They aren’t all food gatherers. Some nurture the young, some protect the colony from invaders. Some reproduce with the Queen to father the entire next generation. Ants are born into their roles of Queen, Soldier, Worker, Nurturer, different sizes and everything, just like us.

But who cares about their different jobs? Ants are just ants. You wouldn’t know anything about their hierarchy unless you saw it on Animal Planet anyway. Who cares about foreign affairs that aren’t on the news? Who cares about anything your community isn’t talking about? If it doesn’t affect your life, there’s no point. You’ll work your nine to five shift, if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’ll go home and deal with your personal life. That’s all you have time for. You fill your niche in society the same as every other living organism there ever was.

So why am I telling you all this? Why do you want to hear that people aren’t so great after all? Why do you want to hear that you’re not different from other organisms, or that you’re less important than other people around you? All your life you’ve been told that you are special. That you are unique and you have something to offer that no one else can. Maybe you were skeptical, but most people accept it because it’s easiest. It’s fun to believe we’re interesting and different, ignoring the fact that even if you’re one in a million, there’s still seven thousand people just like you. You don’t want to hear this. You shouldn’t want to hear this. Nobody wants to have their life torn down by somebody and told it counts for nothing because in 100 years they will be dead. In a thousand years, a hundred thousand, in a billion years....what will our life’s accomplishments have meant? Since there’s nothing to do about it, the only thing to do is ignore it. We do what we can do. The rest is immaterial.

Remember Cameron? She was 12 hours away from saving humanity. But how could she? What were the circumstances? An exploding sun had directed a planet–not an asteroid but a planet–the size of Jupiter to a collision course with Earth. No number of missiles or atomic bombs could divert it’s path as it hurtled at hundreds of thousands of miles an hour through space. Fact was, Cameron didn’t know she was 12 hours from saving humanity and she would never get the opportunity to. No one would. In 12 hours, Earth would be a lumped addition on a slowed but steadily rocketing planet. All life would be instantly ended. Soon Earth would no longer be a part of the Milky Way, the galaxy we considered “our” galaxy. Would it still be the Milky Way without Earth in it? No. Without people, there would be no names. Every accomplishment ever made by humans would be erased like a bulldozed ant hill. Billions of years later, when other intelligent life forms mastered space travel in a way we never could and warped through space rifts as easily as British munch down scones for breakfast visited the Milky Way, they would ascertain that there were no conditions for life forms and that there never were. Not in this galaxy. They would leave as fast as they had come. There was nothing to see here. They would never know that once, a long, long time ago, there was.

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Blogger Kate undoubtedly said...

Mr. Author,
I have a few comments to make:
1 I generally can't say as I have intended to kill an ant simply to see it stop moving. I don't like killing bugs in general, unless they are ugly - like spiders and mosquitoes. I only ever remember killing ants when I was young and they frightened me (and these were the big-ass ants that DID make noise when you crushed them).

2 The universe frightens me. It is too large and too vast for me. I don't like thinking about infinite, I can't comprehend it.

3 I don't think that we are necessarily the most advanced. I think that just because we see the things we do as significant, we assume we are. Who says cats aren't the most advanced? Sure there are street cats, abused cats, spoiled cats, regular cats, barn cats, wild cats...but there are people that have it the same way. Just because they don't go making investments in RRSPs, or work eight hours a day for a living, it doesn't mean that they aren't more advanced than us. They meow, that is their language. They live off of others because they can and it is easy. They do not have the responsibilities of humans, so why behave like them? It may sound ridiculous, but maybe if cats were the dominant species on the earth for millions of years they would be working on Wall Street as well.

4 I have no intention of leaving my "mark" on humanity; no intention of being remember one hundred years after my death. That is of no importance to me. I would like to make the lives of others better, but that doesn't mean that I have to do something that will put me in history. I am not concerned with the meaning to my life, I just want to be remembered fondly and make people smile when they think of me.

5 Oddly enough I am listening to a song right now that said "I hope I'm everything I'm supposed to be when the angels sing". Weird how shit like that happens sometimes.

6 Sometimes I get really caught up in my life and the stress of it all and then I think about what it all means. And it really means very little. The only thing that I care about is caring for those I love...and the rest of it is the cherry on top. Does it really matter if I have a plasma TV, or if I have a university education? Does it matter if I own a car or take the bus? The fact is, I just need to get by, and as long as I'm doing that, life is good. Life is very simple, like you say, and I try to remind myself of that as often as I can.

7 Good post. I enjoyed reading it. +2 life points, Mr. Author

1:20 AM  
Blogger Kate undoubtedly said...

Holy crap...I didn't realize how much I ended up writing. I should have put that on my own blog. I'm stealing your thunder.

1:20 AM  

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In the year 2006 I resolve to:
Blame Canada.