I wrote this piece about five years ago. It ran in the Lane Monthly. I re-share it with a dose of humility and awareness that the world has a way of challenging our thinking.
Waiting for The Big One
“Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world…terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence.”
Evolutionary biologist, Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth.
The end of the world is nigh. That means imminent, soon, impending. So say the experts and it appears that many people think the threat is real because lately more than a few of my friends have asked me what we’re doing to get ready for it.
It is confusing. Is the big one the devastating earthquake seismologists say will ravage the Northwest? Is the big one the asteroid astronomers say is careening towards the Earth, like shotgun pellets at an unsuspecting pigeon? Is the big one renewed threats of nuclear holocaust that State Department analysts say is possible due to deteriorating relations with Russia? Is the big one the environmental collapse threatening all living things due to global warming or an Avian Flu pandemic the World Health Organization says might break out at any time if I don’t get a flu shot? Is the big one a catastrophic Category-5 hurricane, a communication destroying solar flare, a collapse in the global economy, a tsunami obliterating the west coast, a famine inducing drought, a plague of locusts, or even the Armageddon some believe is God’s way of showing how much he loves us? I get confused because with so many contenders to be “The Big One,” I’m not sure how to prepare. If from one second to the next a four-minute Richter Scale 9 shaker lets fly and we lose our roads, electricity, communications, and food supply for an extended period, what then?
Throughout the ages, there has been a steady stream of prognostication about shit hitting the fan. There is never seems a time when we can live without fear from something knocking the crap out of us. It’s a wonder we even get out of bed.
I understand that scientists and spiritual leaders feel compelled to alert us to these things. Disasters do happen, like the 2011 Tohoku quake in Japan they are still struggling to clean up. And honestly, I would take perverse pleasure in saying goodbye to many elements of modern civilization. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that by packing a storm shelter full of beans and rice, barrels of water, and a cache of ammunition to keep the real and human wolves at bay, we can ride it out. Yet, I struggle to understand what good comes from someone telling us there’s a one in three chance that in the next fifty years, Idaho will become a coastal state. What can we do to prepare for that?
Honestly, if the North American tectonic plate “corrects” for the pressure of the sub-ducting San Juan Plate and the 700-mile Cascadian subduction zone goes all “full-margin rupture” so that my home and an estimated hundred forty thousand square miles of the Northwest bends down then springs back like a diving board underneath an Olympic diver, what can we do to prepare? Should we set eyebolts into the corners of the house and tie the corners off to some trees? How many packs of batteries, bottles of water, and vacuum-sealed pouches of camping chili do we need? How will we fend off the desperate “city people” when Trader Joes are looted and cannot get resupplied?
I don’t blame people for worrying when bombarded by a condensed dose of horror each day. Still, I have no inclination to prepare a bunker with a hand-cranked radio and a year’s supply of Meals Ready to Eat so we can ride it out until the coast is clear. I do keep a two-week amount of food strapped around my waist at all times land I do worry about forest fires because I love my donkey and cat and am concerned how I’d get them away from a big fire but other than that I think that many predict dire scenarios as a way to sell us something or distract us from other matters. As for anything the Federal Emergency Management Agency, F.E.M.A. has to say, how’d that work out in New Orleans? Even the Red Cross list of emergency supplies is baffling. I’m not sure what birth certificates, home deeds, and entertainment supplies will do for you when the continent goes all snap, crackle and pop.
Living my own life is challenging enough without fearing disaster scenarios on which highly qualified researchers lay odds. I don’t read newspapers or magazines. I don’t Tweet, Facebook, or watch television. The only radio I listen to is sports radio, where they wouldn’t know a hurricane from a dropped punt. I’m not “In the loop” of all of the impending disasters. Still, I’m not spending a single second worrying about it if for no other reason than I have not one iota of control over any of it. I will not walk the Earth afraid of everything that can end my life.
If it all goes boom and some bunker junkie with his s–t ton of supplies aims a fully loaded Kalashnikov at my heart while I plead for mercy, I’ll have to react. Seen, from a Red Cross Helo, I’ll be a sorry sight eating freeze-dried crow by the fire as the Cavalry drops pouches of hermetically sealed Beef stew and a boxed set of Curb Your Enthusiasm into my outstretched arms. Until then, I’m going about my business and singing R.E.M.’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
Life is life, and death is death. You get what you get.