Yippie! We’re All Gonna Die

bomb

I watch television news for one thing and one thing only: entertainment. That’s all I want from the news; entertainment. You know my favorite thing on television? Bad news. Bad news and disasters and accidents and catastrophes. I want to see some explosions and fires, I want to see shit blowing up and bodies flying around! I’m not interested in the budget. I don’t care about tax negotiations. I don’t want to know what country the fucking pope is in. But you show me a hospital that’s on fire and people on crutches are jumping off the roof and I’m a happy guy! I’m a happy guy! I want to see a paint factory blowing up. I want to see an oil refinery explode. I want to see a tornado hit a church on Sunday. I want to know there’s some guy running through the K-Mart with an automatic weapon firing at the clerks. I want to see thousands of people in the street killing policemen. I want to hear about a nuclear meltdown. I want to know the stock market dropped two thousand points in one day. I want to see people under pressure. Sirens, flames, smoke, bodies, graves being filled, parents weeping. Exciting shit. My kind of TV. I just want some entertainment. It’s just the kind of guy I am. It’s the kind of guy I am. You know what I love the most? When big chunks of concrete and fiery wood are falling out of the sky and people are running around trying to get out of the way. Exciting shit. – George Carlin

Every now and then I have to pause and consciously choose a perspective from which to view the current state of the world. Usually, the upshot of poking through my mental grab-bag of worldviews is a continued resolve to seek meditative insight into interdependence and impermanence so that I can face challenges and emotional upheaval with ever-increasing wisdom, equanimity and compassion. Other times, my reserve of spiritual aspiration and faith in its efficacy seems exhausted and I start to lapse into a nihilistic attitude that either fails or flat-out refuses to see the point in such efforts. What yesterday I called Vipashyana meditation, today I call sitting on a mat like an idiot and staring at statues of some long-dead Indian eccentric. And the bitch of it all is that both perspectives contain equal measures of truth. Meditation has scientifically-tested potential to harness the mind’s plasticity in the nurturing of positive emotional states and egoless insight. It is also a pointless act of remaining uncomfortably motionless in the futile expectation of a miraculous infusion of non-existent esoteric wisdom. Just like quantum particles, one’s attitude toward the importance of a spiritual approach to life’s eternal flux depends on the existing subconscious expectation of the observer making the judgment.

When George Carlin delivered the rant quoted above in a 1992 stand-up performance, I had yet to embark on any sort of a spiritual journey, let alone the frequently convoluted path of Buddhist practice. My views and opinions were entirely informed by a sort of bitter nihilism fed by drugs, alcohol and depression. As you can imagine, I reacted to his giddy ode to spectacular calamity with unbridled joy. Yes! It was like a rousing call to action. What can I do, in my own little way, to contribute to the chaos and expedite the annhilation of our needlessly troublesome species? For a comedy bit, it affected me profoundly. I embraced my existential angst with a new and uncharacteristic spring in my step.

It dawns on me that had I retained such a schadenfreudic attitude into the present, I’d probably consider the antics of people like Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-Un to be the entrees in a virtual smorgasbord of entertainment suddenly laid out before me as humanity’s condition becomes increasingly precarious. It would also be self-defeating of me to remind climate change deniers of their erroneous positions because another of my favorite spectator sports would almost certainly be the mad-dash scramble of people whose homes stand directly in the path of a category 5 uber-storm. In short, I would be nothing more than a properly informed but willfully unconcerned enabler of ignorance and suffering. Truth be told, I wrote all this out so that I could see the inherent awfulness and underlying cowardice of such nihilism with renewed clarity. I’d been lately contemplating throwing in the towel. This post is a reminder to myself that the seeming comfort in abdicating effort and responsibility is nothing but a mirage. Those of us who care do so because we can’t but feel otherwise if we are being honest with ourselves. There is no escape from the vulnerability of interdependence. I breathe because you do.

The prophecies of Armageddon contained in many of the world’s major religions also seem to have been inspired by a sort of nihilism arising from a lack of faith in man’s ability to resist his baser nature. From the Universal cycles of creation and destruction called Kalpas in Hindu cosmology to the apocalyptic warnings of Christian Revelation, man’s unspoken desire to watch the whole shithouse go up in flames is readily apparent. My spiritual dilemma is not different than that of humanity at large. Quite simply, it boils down to a question each of us must answer with as much honesty as we can bring to bear upon it: Do I succumb to despair and deliberately temper the effect of the horrors befalling the human race by telling myself I welcome and enjoy them? Or do I muster the courage to acknowledge my inseparability from it all and rejoin the noble and compassionate struggle with renewed vigor?

The question is rhetorical. Love is indestructible. I’ll see you on the front lines.

30 thoughts on “Yippie! We’re All Gonna Die

    1. Thank you! No matter what beliefs or lack thereof inform a person’s views, I think we all share the same basic choices and possess similar inherent wisdom no matter what we choose to call it. Right now, I think the tendency to consider everything essentially hopeless is a very tempting outlook for people to embrace. We all need to renew our courage and faith from time to time.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I agree with you. I have seen, first hand, how the oppressive environment is causing some to want to tap out. Unfortunately, trying to help them resist can come across as a bit polly-anna-ish. Here’s hoping there is no Rapture today or it will get REALLY hard to stay positive.

        Liked by 3 people

  1. The world’s major religions contain apocalyptic prophecies because human beings are so self-centered that they can’t bear to imagine a world without them (as individuals) in it.
    Like yourself, I used to do things that weren’t very good for me, and did those things with unparalleled professionalism. 🙂 I feel better now, and yet I don’t. Sobriety is a sobering thing. Carlin got sober, too.
    I believe, as I think you do, that the best we can do is to shake our heads and smile, and keep going on, to set a good example for any other poor suckers who know what the score is. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post, and one that I really needed to read today.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you! “…did those things with unparalleled professionalism” — perfect phrasing! And I absolutely agree with the upshot of your comment — no matter how futile it sometimes seems, it is imperative that we continue to care while simultaneously retaining our sanity by keeping in perspective the effect that we can and can’t have on the world at large.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think if we did what we did in ’92 we wouldn’t be around here to pontificate one way or the other. 😉

    But, in all honesty, in 1992 I was a ditto-head. I’d rather be a nihilist.

    I’m neither, now. I’m like you. I embrace the possibilities of a better world despite all evidence to the contrary. Also like you, I have days where surrender looks better than perseverance, but persevere we must. The world needs us.

    Glad to have you beside me on the front lines. Our words are our weapons; I hope I utilize them half as wisely as thee.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love you, Paul. I truly, truly do. And I know you get it. I don’t actually ‘know’ you, but I do, because this is me. This is how I woke up this morning. This is why I have tears streaming down my face. This I why I woke up with a silent ‘fuck you’ to the universe, and then forced myself to list off 5 reasons why I should be in a near blissful state. And despite the fact that ‘I have oxygen to breathe’ was one of them, it got me to number 4…which might have been I have legs to peddle my bike with. But it led me to number 5. Which might have been, ‘I have a bike’.
    Admittedly it’s a bit of a rough patch.
    But then I locked my bike up, and smiled on the inside, because it is a very cute bike. And then I walked into the coffee shop and was greeted with a genuine, “Yay, Brooke is here” smile from my favorite girl behind the counter. And I looked at my phone and received check-in texts from my 3 favorite people, just cause (to your point, they tend to sense/feel when I need a check-in text), and I listened to my favorite authors talking about how fucked up and messy they feel, even after writing the most amazing books that have inspired millions, they still feel fucked up and messy. And I know, on a very deep and sometimes very painful level, that my heart literally hurts and tears immediately start falling when I see or hear about someone I care about, or anyone really, in pain or heartbroken. And I think it’s all fucking beautiful. And I want more of it, even when it feels this terrible, Because of this. Because you get it. Because you feel this way and can express it in a way that makes me hurt with you, feel utterly defeated with you and vow to resist resignation with everything I have with you. You wrote exactly what I needed to hear but can’t find the words to write now. This is why I love you. And this is why I’m standing right next to you on the front lines ready to fucking do this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, Brooke. Thank you so much for such an honest and beautiful expression of empathy and understanding. I love you, too. That is a statement I don’t make lightly. We give each other courage and motivation and that is precisely the magic that could be universal if people learned to drop their defenses, look within and find all of humanity looking back.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Funny, I was just reading an article about the end of times. A part of me almost believes it and the other is like, ah bullshit.
    We were discussing George Carlin and the above bit the other night. The asshole in me thinks that it’s spot-on…but the real me, the one who loves and hopes for the best thinks that it’s awful. I’ve watched the hurricanes on tv, read about yet another earthquake in Mexico and I am not afraid to tell you that I am brokenhearted and scared shitless.
    I stand by you on the front lines, Paul. No matter what we believe in, we are all together, breathing the same air. I’m glad that both of us continue to inhale and exhale, no matter what the future holds.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The idea of Interdependence should wake people up to the fact that if everything in the universe is Interdependent we CAN affect change! We are not helpless. That somehow gives me a ray of hope. Also anyone who thinks that they only have to worry about themselves because someone else’s Karma doesn’t affect them may think otherwise when one of Kim Jong Un’s Nuclear tipped missiles lands on their head!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “I’d been lately contemplating throwing in the towel.” Uh, you can’t do that yet. You’ve already influenced my blog and you have more influencing to do. Me? I’ve already thrown in the towel. Then I woke up and said. “pretend I’m dead. Now I’m here on borrowed time. What do I with it? So I started writing. Found WordPress which led to finding people like you. THAT’S what keeps me going. The Armageddon? I just shake my head and say…”I’m ready. I’ve lived.” Which means I do not live in fear as some claim to be living in. I live in joy that I have borrowed some more time…

    Liked by 2 people

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