We all love the thought of our era being the definitive experience. Thinking that the hipsters and high tops roaming these roads will be the pinnacle of civilization; it can never be better than this. Times and tastes will change, though. They’re among the only things guaranteed in life – aside from death, taxes, and the absolute nature of human stupidity. This death mongering – the insistence that the world has to end in our life time – isn’t drawn from facts. It’s barely drawn from a fear of death. This is all drawn from fear.
When it comes down to it, it’s easier to say the world is ending soon. We’re free from future accountability that way. We don’t have to worry about the next great thing. We can take delight in mediocrity. People want to say the world is ending soon because it’s easier than thinking about how it’s not.
There are a ton of things that just aren’t going to change. Don’t get me wrong: there are old standards that will be classified the same for millennia. Politicians will always be slippery. Lawyers will inherently be despised. Prostitution will always be called the oldest profession. Although, it seems the oldest profession to have a lasting impression on modern man was art: how many hookers have you ever seen in a cave painting?
As environments change, so, too, do the people. In our time, the biggest change to people has been the rapid pacing of technology, and the pursuit of “the next great thing.” I’m not talking plastic trees and recycling your own pee - although, I understand it’s quite sterile, and eggs boiled in it are quite the delicacy in Asian territories. No, I’m talking more of the technology boom in the past century. From cars; to synthetic fibers; to massive computers for binary input being miniaturized all the way down into a cellphone that can do more than ENIAC, which once filled an entire floor of a Philadelphian business complex.
In the past century we have been obsessed with information. The birth of this country was founded on horse riding couriers, and sail boats crossing the Atlantic. This reached a point where information could be shared within a month, all the way down to instantaneously. We are spoiled by our exposure, and we want more. We have developed ourselves to keep in pace with technology that allows us to do this more efficiently – virtually “embedding” these sources into our bodies. This saturation is further wasted with the information disseminated at break neck speeds – which is rarely every happy, positive reports.
I’m certainly afraid of how much faster this transmission of information is going to become. I’m afraid that the reminiscence of my childhood will never be understood by future generations. How the simplicity of that life will be lost on them – both in its splendor and bane. I am not afraid (quite upset, really) that we still don’t have any damn teleporters. I’m looking at you, science – get cracking.
The most frightening part of the world not ending is how, someday, it’s going to keep on going without us in it. It’s easy to say the world is ending if it takes out everyone. Half of everyone’s just too unfair. If everyone goes, then there really can be nothing better in life than the life I’ve lived, right?
What is my legacy, then? What are we leaving to our children, and their children, if we keep fear as part of our lives like this? The circle will flow, unbroken, for millennia more, but right now, we are inhibiting their ability to see past the curve. Why should they have to strive for more when those before them keep saying an end is coming? What’s the point?
The example needs to be set. Years ago, I used to have an expression, “I don’t live every day like it’s my last: I live like it’s my first.” When I sleep at night, I want to know that I’m getting a new chance the next day – not that the world is going to end in the middle of an amazing dream about flying on the back of a pegasus. I haven’t held that mantra in ages – so long, that I could tell you when I stopped using it (September 2002). I think it’s time we bring back the childlike splendor - that unspoiled ambition - and show the world how to think outside sepia tones and death tolls. Show them that a natural disaster isn’t a celebrity candlelight vigil – this has happened to people who are now scared, and want to be reminded what it’s like to be alive: show them what it’s like. Help them; give a stranger your love and compassion.
I think what we all need is to look at the world with what we know now, and appreciate that it’s still here. Look at the details every now and then. The color, smell, and texture of a blade of grass. The way a wisp of cloud makes us think of an elephant or a rollerblade. That it’s okay to be afraid of thunder, but amazed at the light preceding it. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud in public. Hold hands, kiss in church, don’t shy away from lewd humor, and don’t be smug about smart jokes. Let go of the conventions that remind you of how we’re all dying, and just enjoy that you can live every day like it’s your first.