It’s The End Of The World As We Know It… But I Feel Fine.
By Chris Hibbard
(Originally written for http://www.lethbridgeliving.com June 2011)
Much has been made this year about catastrophic climate change, cataclysmic events, manic reverends predicting the end of the world, and other Armageddon promotion. I’m not a particularly religious man, nor am I a huge conspiracy theorist. So I must admit to finding all of this hullaballoo to be quite hilarious.
Every century has had it’s doom & gloom soothsayers, from Nostradamus and the Book of Revelations, through Mayan Calendars and Milleniasts. The world was supposed to end 400 years ago, then 300 years ago, then at the year 2000, until most recently – two weeks ago. And guess what? Lo and behold, we’re all still here – like little ants crawling over a big blue stone in the universe.
Might it be the fact that every man, woman, child and their dog now seem to have digital cameras, that makes every day feel accompanied by horrendous tragedy? Might it be the broad scope of our big-business media – everywhere all at once – especially when death and destruction are at hand to sell more stories. Either way, tidal waves have never seemed taller. Volcanoes have never erupted so often. Tornadoes have never spun so furiously. I wonder every morning as I sip my coffee, which country is going to make the headline news today.
Now I realize full-well the scope of these disasters. 30,000 killed in Haiti’s earthquake, 15,000 killed in Indonesia, 7,000 homeless in the mid-west. Even here in Alberta, Slave Lake burned and burned for what felt like 10 days on the news – surely more like 10 years to residents of the community. But what does it all mean?
My Christian father is convinced the end is dawning near, and that we’ll all experience the rapture in this lifetime. My next door neighbours believe that China’s moving in for a global takeover, and that Barack Obama might be the Anti-Christ. Myself – I think that it’s all hogwash and fear-mongering to a certain degree. I think that we’re doing ourselves no favours by polluting everywhere we go. We’re not helping our children by dumping oil in the ocean, digging tons of earth off the surface of northern Alberta to get at the crude below. We’re certainly not making air any cleaner with our cigarettes, our smokestacks and our noisy diesel engines. Even on a smaller scale, with huge amounts of sodium, fat and sugar in everything we consume, we’re not helping our own waistlines much. Obesity, asthma, diabetes; addictions, cancers and mental illnesses – they’re all on the rise. These things are all pretty much accepted across the board.
But what none of us like to admit is that we can really only blame ourselves, based on the little decisions we make every day. “I’m going to drive to the store.” “I’m going to eat wings and French fries.” “I’m going to buy a bigger truck.” “I’m going to throw my trash out the window and my recyclables in the dumpster.” These little decisions seem so petty and small, that we’re only hurting ourselves right? Perhaps. Yet consider the fact that there are 8 billion of us on the planet – the majority of whom are below the poverty line and live in near-starvation conditions. If each of us throws away plastic, that’s an awful lot of plastic. If each of us eats greasy hamburgers, that’s an awful lot of grease. If each of us drives to work, that’s an awful lot of traffic and smog. It’s hard to accept, but it’s true. We’re killing each other slowly every day, and for the most part we just turn our heads and point fingers at someone else – some shadowy corporation or elite business society. I’m just as guilty of this as are all of you readers – whether we admit it or not.
My belief is that the Earth has been here for longer than any of us can even properly fathom. It’s been here through ice ages, through dinosaurs, through Neanderthals and beyond. It’s been turning through Greco-Roman times, through Aztecs and the medieval ages. It’s been slowly rotating under two world wars, dozens of genocides and thousands of disasters like we see on TV today every night. I think it’ll be here long after we’re gone, and long after humans wipe ourselves out by a) making stupid silly little decisions and b) choosing indifference – not making stupid silly little decisions. Are we so arrogant and ignorant that we think otherwise? That the Earth is here for us – for our leisure, our exploitation and our lust for ‘stuff’? Of course, my stuff is better than your stuff you know… Your money is more valuable than my money. Her rights are more important than his rights. With all this kind of thinking, it’s no wonder we’re thinking about the end of the world – we all feel like we’ve got it comin’ to us. But we’re civilized right? We’ve gotta be! The news tells us that we are. And if we get depressed from watching it, there’s always big pharmaceutical companies happy to take our minds off our guilt, our shame, our fear and our loneliness.
The sad fact is, we’re not much better than ants really. If you consider humanity as though we’re all just bugs scurrying over a big blue ball – your day to day problems become a lot less stressful. You begin to realize that getting cut off in traffic isn’t such a big deal when compared to eating out of garbage cans, working for two dollars an hour, living in constant fear of rape and amputation, or sleeping two dozen people to one home. I suggest you try it some time. If you ever want a challenge – try calculating how much of the donation funds promised to Haiti actually made it there. You might not like what you find out.
The way I see it, if aliens were to fly by and look down at us from space, they’d see us picking up our dog’s poop. They’d watch us cruising around like prisoners in our own mobile cells before locking ourselves away in bigger cells where we sit and stare at moving images. They’d watch as we dig deep into our own home planet to suck out it’s blood. They’d observe us stealing from each other, killing each other, ignoring each other and blaming each other for our own problems. And then they’d keep right on flying, thinking what kind of creature would possibly want to live there?
But don’t be too depressed by this – just think about what makes you feel good, and happiness really isn’t all that complicated. I personally like music in the background, sunshine on my face, birds chirping outside, cats purring inside, and having a full belly. I enjoy deep philosophical conversations with no right answers. I like meeting new people, sleeping in late and soaking in a hot tub. I like reading books that make me feel and movies that make me think. I also appreciate talking to children, because their outlook is still simple. To them, the end of the world means either bedtime, or no more peanut butter cookies. These things make me smile. And then I watch the news.