Today’s Ipod song? Nothing. The chaos wave affecting my technology finally hit the pod.
S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire is exactly the type of fantasy that I try to avoid. I have it on good authority that it’s well written and fascinating. What would happen if all of our much vaunted technology was suddenly zapped and ceased to function? In Stirling’s view, it would be interesting chaos: some social conventions would completely die out, others would thrive. The idea that we’re so close to a complete and utter collapse of society sends all too familiar shivers up my spine not because I necessarily believe it, but because I’ve heard it all too often, and it echoes against something drilled into me for many years.
My mother and stepfather are apocalyptic Christians, which means they strongly believe strongly that at any moment the world will unravel, the Rapture will happen, the United Nations will come over the hills seeking our guns and put us all into concentration camps. Hearing this nearly every day in high school didn’t do much for my sense of futurism. It fed in me a distinct fatalism. What was the point of college? Striving for a better career? Any effort you put forth to improve yourself was soon to be wiped out by a cataclysmic change. The best you could do is remain pure in thought or deed, remain as static as possible, in case today was the day when all hell would break loose.
I rejected this teaching in time. I had something in me far too Humanist, far too curious, to do nothing with my life. Having a job flipping burgers could have contributed to it, but I wanted more.
When I first began reading the Enlightenment thinkers, I understood where they were coming from. They were trying to reason on logic while also updating their methodology. I won’t say they hit their mark, but I found in Voltaire and Franklin sympathetic minds. I strive for the rational, though sometimes the superstitious still lurks at the edge of my mind. When I see people being injected with RFID tags for security purposes my mind immediately leaps to the Mark of the Beast. The more I see our privacy violated the more I worry that the world could teeter in that destructive direction. Maybe it will. Maybe my mother was right all those years ago when she told me the tales of the tortures we’d all face at the hands of a world government.
I believe this world is worth living in, that for every terror the nightly news shows us, there is a sublime beauty in nature or in the arts. By endlessly contemplating the horrors awaiting those left behind, my mother fails to edify those she could help: instead of remaining static, she could be feeding the poor, educating the illiterate, improving the world a little bit at a time.
There is only so much time in a life. At thirty-four I know I’m at the halfway mark. It doesn’t make me dread the mystery of the end; it makes me want to do more, faster. If we’re all doomed by some asteroid the government isn’t telling us about or by the work of the devil, I’d still rather get what good done that I can, rather than waste time contemplating the inevitable end.