Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Motivated Part 3: The Apocalypse and Me
"How strange it is to be anything at all." -Neutral Milk Hotel
Over the weekend, I read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, which is gorgeous, insightful, gut-excavating satire. I recommend it, but only if you can spare day or so’s recovery time afterwards- it’s hard to bounce back from.
Reading the fictional but plausible end of America In SSTLS made me think of my ongoing personal relationship with the end of the world. When I was a little kid in the Eighties, the Cold War was still going on and I was well versed in the principles of mutually assured destruction. Between 60 Minutes, commercials for The Day After, and doom-obsessed Eighties episodes of The Twilight Zone, I was full of fiery images and ready to pack it in at a moment’s notice.
When I was ten or so, I had a little red calico diary. I only remember one entry from it: “Last night I dreamed that the bomb was dropped. I went outside on the porch, and I breathed in the burning in the air.” The next paragraph begins, (With a sign, it seems.):
“And now back to my own small life.”
And that was the exactly right thing to do. My exaggerated sense of near-demise is, I think, what made me grow up so much in love with the world and with humans in particular. In the face of insurmountable whatever, your point of view is really all you have.
Here’s why I think expressing yourself is as important as whatever apocalypse is happening at the moment:
Being a particular human being on Earth seems to be a strange and unlikely miracle.I remember an Astronomy class at SU in which the professor broke down all of the planetary circumstances that had to align in order to create life at all, let alone humans, let alone Buffy episodes. I had a sense of that when I was little; in addition to laying awake counting the number of New Years Eves I have left, I used to think about how lucky and impossible it was to have been born, in this time, in this country, a girl who likes kittens, with a nice sister, etc. Think of all of the millions and billions of circumstances that had to conspire to place any of us here.
That’s why I think you are a miracle, and anything beautiful you say or make or DO is a miracle. That’s why I’ll always champion ANYONE’S unique point of view, not a genre, not a style, not ambition or fame, just the one and only example of you that will ever exist. I tell that to kids all the time, but I think grown-ups need to hear it, too.