Not with a bang, but with an incredibly dumb whimper



i.                     It’s like if a Margaret Atwood novel was stupid

Maybe civilization is collapsing around us, but who can really know? When Rome fell, the people in the actual city felt every vibration, every tremor, but out on the periphery of the empire in the garrison towns and scattered villages, it would have been initially like nothing had changed. Maybe that’s where we are, except instead of no news from the emperor, it’s too much news from everywhere. There’s a signal, if we could find it and decode it, but it’s drowned in the noise.  So maybe it is happening right now, but whatever. Milf Island is on and I have Flamin’ Hot Doritos.

ii.                   They stay on the air

I think often about the TV in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Most of the time that our small, heroic band of survivors are holed up in the attic of that mall, the TV is still broadcasting. Pundits and talking heads are giving advice and having arguments not all that different in tone (if not content) from what you see on the big “news” channels today. It looks for all the world like they feel safe in that studio, even as they argue about whether people should start eating the dead.

                Our merry little band will become just like those pundits; luxuriating in a false sense of safety and calm. Believing themselves untouchable. For a time even the audience can almost forget about the hordes of ravenous dead beyond the walls. Just like in the farthest reaches of Rome, everything seems just fine.

iii.                 "We've got to remain rational! Logical. Logical. We've got to remain logical. We've got to. There's no choice. It has to be that. It's that or the end."

Right now Ohio is covered in a cloud of black smoke made up of toxic chemicals that may or may not rain down on the cities poisoning everyone. The government shot down a Chinese spy balloon then almost immediately followed that up by shooting down an apparent UFO in Alaska.  Roe v. Wade has been overturned, plunging many states into a genuinely nightmarish hellscape for women. Children are chewed up by gunfire nearly every day. You can’t go to a concert or a park without fearing for your life.  Some cities don’t have safe water. Inflation is through the roof, but wages have stagnated.  And don’t think about the pandemic now it its third year. And Roger Waters has rerecorded Dark Side of the Moon with a country vibe.

                Don’t worry though. Remain rational. The long arc of history and all that. It’s just a bump in the freeway or something. We’re not buying death on the installment plan, have another cigarette.

iv.                 And the meat that still clings to the bone

Look, it’s no secret that I require a massive amount of medication to keep a [redacted] from my head. Is there a ‘but’  trailing behind that sentence? There is not. My clinical depression is just another data point here on this rotting spheroid we call home.

                To snake back round to where we started, I think often of Jeff Nichols’ film Take Shelter. It’s the story of Curtis (Michael Shannon), who has terrible dreams of an apocalypse in the form of a storm. He becomes obsessed with the idea that his dreams are predictions and begins building a storm shelter in his back yard. This project takes over his life to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. His wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain) because both angry and terrified when he tries to tell her the truth. Like a modern Cassandra, he can see the destructive force, but no one will believe him. He loses his job, his insurance, his friends, the trust of his family in his fight to keep them safe.

                Shannon plays Curtis as afraid, but almost resigned.

                At the very end of the film we learn that Curtis isn’t insane. His dreams were prescient and the storm isn’t coming, it is here. The oily dark rain he saw in his nightmares falls on everyone as monstrous, black, massive clouds form and tornadoes rip across the ocean. By the time the others believe, it is too late to take shelter.


v.                   And Now

Many of us likely feel like Curtis just at this moment. Standing apart from the crowd, trying to filter meaning from the data overload and screaming that the world is on fire.

                If I can, I would like to leave you with a line from Either / Or by Soren Kierkegaard



“A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that's just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it's a joke.”