September 1, 2011

Before the Crash

If you have ever been in a car crash, you have probably experienced a moment, just before the collision, in which you became aware that it was inevitable. In that instant, everything falls away. Your journey becomes irrelevant. Your plans evaporate in the face of a future both violent and unpredictable. Perhaps there is terror. Perhaps a certain feeling of detachment. Life holds its breath.

That feeling seldom leaves me now. The world has gotten away from us. It follows its own trajectory, beyond anyone’s actual control. Some confluence of overpopulation, resource depletion, and climate change awaits us. Governments unravel. The global financial system shudders and buckles. The idea of eternal progress – more and better every year, more and better every generation – reveals itself to be little more that a comforting fairy tale. A circus act. A gross, insulting lie. We will be waking up from our collective dream now. Brace yourself! Get ready!

But how does one get ready for the unknown? Especially when, to be sure, most people still cling tightly to that dream. “…Look at my new smartphone – see? I can tweet with people in Uganda if I want to. We will all have electric cars soon! There’s no problem! There are some very smart people out there who will take care of everything! I was guaranteed a future – you understand me – GUARANTEED!!!...” I shrug. I hold my breath. Time slows. The moment drags on, month by month, a car crash in extreme slow motion. Most of the other passengers still believe we will just be at the mall soon, and that once we get there everything will just get better and better. More and more…

I cling only to physics and to history. To facts. I am here. I look out the windshield in mute amazement. My existence, the momentary flicker of my consciousness, may be snuffed out by what’s to come. In hard times, people suffer. People die. There’s your guarantee, if you want one. A rough impact after a high speed run. Brace yourself! Get ready!

1 comment:

  1. Not so much evocative as terrifying!

    I do agree that the future is not going to be what we hoped, and not even as good as the present. However, I don't think it's going to be as bad as WWII. Not to dismiss how bad that time was, but civilization survived.

    Of course, I could be wrong. I think the financial and energy crises are manageable, but I keep seeing signs of a military conflict between the US and China. It's hard to imagine just how bad that could be for everyone, especially since it would prevent us from dealing with the energy and environmental problems.