This only starts out doom and gloom
You probably don’t need to, but just in case, stop for a moment and think about the headlines of the day, however you’re aware of them. Here’s the general summary. Today we have war, famine, and disease. People are fleeing rocks and headed for hard places. The economy looks strong, with a few winners, mostly losers, but other people can buy things, so it’s okay until it won’t be again, because hey, that’s cyclic. If that weren’t enough, for every good government on the globe (assuming there are any), there seem to be enough less-good governments to more than pick up the slack for them. If we develop a way to colonize off-world, it’ll only be a combination of the wealthy and the extremely well educated (since those definitely don’t need to overlap at all) who both just happen to pass physical and psychological screenings so well that you may as well call it Eugenics in Space. And meanwhile, down here on Earth, there’s climate change, and the effects a) exacerbate all of the aforementioned problems, and b) are projected to be even worse than previously projected, according to the latest projections that future projections will be even more dire.
For Dear Reader that doesn’t accept that last claim, just move right along. This article just isn’t for you. Sorry. You clearly have enough hope already. You don’t need to find what I’m offering here.
For the rest of us, maybe this is a problem. Many, myself included, feel that the wheels have come so far off this cart that f it, it is what it is. For all the forward-looking, solutions-minded sorts working their backsides off to identify workable solutions, there’s just so. very. much. inertia to work against. The clock is ticking and it doesn’t care about our feelings. How many of us really think we’re somehow, as a species, going to collectively pull our crania from our presently rectally inverted posture?
So let’s prognosticate. We’ll just start from the general premise that life as we know it is pretty much just screwed. Now think about that for a moment. Think about how you imagine that to be. And realize you’re reading these words on a piece of technologically sophisticated equipment that’s neither owned nor comprehended by a very large number of people on this planet. You probably don’t feel it, but you are staggeringly wealthy by comparison to the least among us. So when we feel that life as we know it is coming to a spectacular, cataclysmic end, what we see ending is a life of incredible privilege. For some people, ones tough enough to stick it out where the climate and its consequences go most sideways one the conflicts move on because the hell with that 40 acres, life will merely remain almost impossibly difficult, but maybe at least they’ll get brutalized less. Maybe.
Does your outlook look so sweet by comparison? I know mine doesn’t. What you and I and our progeny face is a distinct downward spiral ending in a dull thud. What you just did today? That won’t matter even the tiniest bit. And our successor generations? Believe me, they won’t thank us even a little for what we’ve left them, not unless they share in my peculiar perspective or one like it that imbues one with hope rather than despair when faced with the sheer horror and futility of it all.
We are, I think, heading for the kind of post-apocalyptic epoch we can imagine will have its own Iliad and Odyssey in its future dying days.
I don’t think we’re just going to die off. Sheer human orneriness will probably be what saves the species. I think, after we’ve been scoured clean by war, and famine, and disease, there will still be enough human survivors scattered in pockets across the globe, some better organized and better connected than others, that the species will be able to maintain itself. Will they be enough to establish (or re-establish) satellite connections and re-enable global communication? Or will that, along with every last thing dependent upon it, be things of the past until the learning is redeveloped?
Will there be pockets of technologically advanced survivors, and pockets of merely industrialized survivors, and pockets of pre-industrial survivors? I think so. And I think they’ll rebuild, suited to their needs. I think that because they’ll be starting out far ahead of still needing to discover agriculture, and pottery, and husbandry, and wheels, and fire, and steel. Maybe it won’t take 7,000 years to get from square one to some new “modern” state of being. However many wars, however many famines, however many diseases plague our posterity, they’ll make it. They always have done.
This is where my hope comes in. I can readily imagine a world populated by survivors that I might call the Very Worst people. I can imagine one populated only by the Very Best people. I tend to imagine it’ll be the same as it’s ever been, though, and it’ll be populated by a mix, mostly of the Very Average people with enough of the Very Best people to keep the Very Worst looking like the very worst except at the very worst times. And they’ll survive all that, too.
They’ll be surviving all of that fed by, in part, the myths and fables, each with its very own moral of the story, that we leave behind for them.
There are those among us who hearken to a better, harder time, where men were men, and so were the Very Best women, the ones who become immortalized for how awesomely masculine they were. They long for a day where fightin’ words end in bloodshed, and those that can’t take the heat should just step back and let the men handle things with action, swift right-crosses to the chin, swagger, and a mean blue streak trailing behind their every speech. They long for a time when a man will be a law unto himself, and heaven help the wayward soul that crosses his path.
When things get truly rough, those folks will probably get their wish. The irony will only hit when the oldest of those well-wishers find themselves facing 21st Century droogs with nobody to save them. As for the younger, I’m sure they’ll fall, like everyone else, along some spectrum.
So I’ll hope that at one end of the spectrum, the Very Best people are keeping visions of valor, honor, and integrity alive. I’ll hope they’ll keep more than community, but a wider love than that, alive. I’ll hope that, as for the majority of our history, it’s the Very Best people that are the most enduring sources of wisdom and inspiration.
And with that last, flickering shard of hope, I can find enough meaning in a given day to keep going, to keep feeling that it’s all worthwhile. However humbly, my job, as is yours, is to contribute to whichever trends you think apply to the Very Best people. It’s not my job to tell you who they are. You already know who that is. Lend your weight to keeping it alive.
Why? Because one day, we will have a new Iliad, a new Odyssey at the end of this epoch, and it will be filled with inspiration for generation upon generation to come. If Valor is a Virtue you wish to have lauded and honored in song and tale, live according to valor. If Truth, truth. If Justice, justice. If Wisdom, wisdom.
We aren’t the end of a long, tragic tale. History until now is but the precipitating event. The story has only begun.