From the perspective of human philosophy, there often are lessons to be learned from unlikely events. Or non-events. Last Saturday’s much-publicized “End of the World” rumor is a good example.
While most dismiss or ridicule doomsayers as misguided religious cranks, the reality is that in this, man’s Information Age, there are references to impending apocalypse everywhere. Comic books have long featured stories of comets on a collision course with Earth. In Hollywood, doomsday movies are a staple of the industry, heralding the end by all manner of asteroid, earthquake, tidal wave, hurricane, nuclear war or deadly virus.
While all of these are fictitious scenarios, recent world events are anything but. The devastation of the ongoing string of powerful tornadoes, the total destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and the terrible triumvirate earthquake-tsunami-flooded nuclear reactors in Japan are all too real.
All of these real-life tragedies reveal the common threads that bind people anywhere and everywhere on this finite planet. They remind us that in the final analysis, the commonality of being human is greater than any cultural, political, religious or ideological differences.
Whether fiction or fact, the questions prompted by apocalyptic fears are telling, universal, and as old as humankind itself: Will the world come to an end? If so, when? How? If the world ended tomorrow, what would you do?
While one might reasonably think that such big-picture questions would produce a wide range of responses, the reality is that most people offer one of three answers:
I would gather my loved ones and hold them tight.
I would go to a church or pray privately.
Or (to quote musician Prince, the great pop culture prophet) I would party like it’s 1999. (Talk about your Flash Mobs!)
All three plans have their merit.
In the face of such life-and-death talk, many people respond reflexively with humor. Typically, men say, “I would grab a bottle of Captain Morgan’s (I know, it’s supposed to be Allen’s) and the nearest blonde and get naked.” And while I find no mystery in the appeal of this bold plan of action, I recognize that it is highly unlikely.
First, only men would even think of using the End of Life As We Know It as an opportunity for sex. It’s just a guess, but I’m thinking that the gentler sex would find very little romantic in the words, “Look at all that smoke and fire. Should we head to the roof or the basement?”
As dark and awful as pondering the end may be, anything that causes us to take stock of our lives also can serve the vital function of clarifying our perspectives. Given the ever-increasing dark state of affairs worldwide, such discussions might be better viewed as opportunities to remind ourselves that we are all in this together.
We all are concerned with our health and safety. We all require food and shelter, clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. We all love our children, our families, our friends.
We’ve all heard the old maxim,”Every day above ground is a good day.” Maybe it’s a good time to start believing it.
Keith Stover is an artist-philosopher-musician who lives in Bucksport.