And Neither Should You!
Back when I was in grade school in the mid 80’s, I remember my teacher Mrs. Grimley telling the class about a hole in something called the “ozone layer”. She never clearly explained what the fuck an ozone layer was but apparently a hole in it was a very bad thing. So bad, in fact, that unless I could convince my mommy to stop using aerosol hairspray and my daddy to stop using spray-on deodorant, the polar ice caps would surely melt and the entire planet would be underwater by the year 2000. Scared shitless of this prospect, I went home and demanded that my parents immediately cease use of their chlorofluorocarbon-rich toiletries. They of course told me to me to shut my mouth and mind my own damn business. When I attempted to push the issue, I was reminded that I was just a stupid kid and told not to give them any shit as they would need only squeeze my head if that was what they sought. And so I fell into a state of worry and depression, fearing that inevitable day when we would all go to our watery grave.
The following summer I found myself at the EPCOT Center on a now defunct ride called Horizons which offered a peek into the future (the future then universally presumed to be the year 2000). Among the novel and soon-to-be realized concepts presented was the floating city. “That’s it!” I thought. “We are saved!” Oceans overrunning the land would be of little consequence, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. How could I have had so little faith in our scientists and engineers? We weren’t going to drown after all, thanks to floating cities! Mom could use all the Miss Breck she wanted and Dad could fog his underarms with Right Guard ‘til the fucking cows came home! Stupid Mrs. Grimley and her ozone hole!
While I left EPCOT with a renewed sense of hope, I eventually noticed that nobody, outside the magical world of Disney, seemed to be talking about those floating cities, much less building them. My schoolmates and family would laugh at me whenever I voiced my anxiety about this procrastination. They apparently were naïve to our situation and didn’t realize we would soon all be underwater. And so I conceded that it was hopeless and I dedicated the next few years to worrying about the eventual day when we would meet our fate in Davy Jones locker, any hope for cheering up Sleepy Jean lost forever.
The year 2000 came and went, leaving the oceans in roughly the same place they were when I first heard of that hole in the ozone layer fifteen or so years before. Over the years talk of ozone depletion greatly subsided and people instead began talking about something called a “greenhouse effect” and “global warming”. That never frightened me quite as much as the ozone hole. In fact, I rather liked the idea of global warming. Having grown up in the Northeast with its long and brutal winters, the thought that New York would eventually have the same climate as Miami seemed like it would be quite a welcome change, even if we did lose a few yards of coastline.
Flash forward to last month when world leaders, including our President, were patting themselves on the back for reaching that historical agreement that is supposedly going to save our fragile planet. Yippie! Hope they all had a good time Paris! As for how this will benefit me, I’m not exactly sure. I do, however, see it being a lot more expensive to fuel my car and heat my home. I also anticipate lots of dumb laws and regulations that will greatly diminish the convenience of everyday living, even more so than that stupid plastic bag ban my municipality enacted a few years ago. Though a soothsayer I am not, I predict such legislation will have a ripple effect across the world’s economies, resulting in increased unemployment, higher prices, and a less enjoyable standard of living overall. As for the net effect of all this on our fair planet, I’ve pondered that extensively and the conclusion to which I have come is nothing. Absolutely nothing!
Newsflash people – we’re already living on borrowed time! We can reduce our carbon footprint all we want but it will not change the fact that there is a super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park that is approximately 40,000 years overdue for eruption and when it finally blows it is going to end most life on most of the planet. That is, if one of those thousands of celestial objects floating around our galaxy doesn’t first smash into this big blue marble and render every species, barring the cockroaches and perhaps some fungi and bacteria, extinct. Either way, both are inevitably going to happen and there’s nothing our stupid asses can do about it. Simply put, this world ain’t long for this world. Even if, by some unlikely miracle, we managed to avoid the super-volcano eruption and the asteroid collisions, or if enough of us somehow survived them to continue humanity, it would only briefly postpone the inevitable as Earth (along with most of the solar system) is eventually going to be swallowed by the Sun when it enters its red giant phase. Now were I more a more positive chap, I might subscribe to the delusion that scientists will eventually find a way to send astronauts to the Sun to replace the battery or install a new heat pump or some shit like. But I’m not and, even if that happened, we’d still be shit-out-of-luck! Our infinite universe, you see, is destined for a very finite existence. Scientists tell us that it has been expanding at a rapid and exponential rate ever since the Big Bang. At a certain point it will reach its limit and, unable to expand any further, will rip itself apart, every atom in existence shredding at its nucleus. And then, just as before, there will be nothing. Our existence, our greatest achievements, everything we ever held sacred will be rendered incontrovertibly meaningless.
The cold hard fact that comes out of all this is this simple, though potentially uncomfortable, truth – despite what our egos may tell us, our lives are not special or sacred. In fact, they’re quite insignificant. Regardless of what great things we may accomplish in this life, any trace we ever existed will ultimately be deleted, unrecoverable with even the most sophisticated of Norton’s utilities. Short and trivial, all of it, nothing more than the results of a cosmic mistake that will one day erase itself. To many this is probably quite a depressing realization and they may wonder whether there is any point in going on, whether it might be better to just end it now. I, for one, very much disagree with this sentiment. The reason you ask? Star Wars damnit!
The weekend before Christmas I sat in a packed movie theatre watching The Force Awakens. If there is such thing as a spiritual experience then that was truly it, a communal ascent to nirvana that began the moment “LucasFilm Ltd.” appeared on screen and dissolved into that familiar text reading “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, way”. I can still hear the thunderous applause that erupted as the John Williams score boomed through the THX sound system and the Star Wars logo appeared before our excited eyes then receded into the background, replaced by the upward scroll telling us what has happened since the last episode. For the next two and a half hours all eyes gazed fixedly on the screen. Not a head turned to the left or to the right, no one so much as looked down at his or her popcorn. Spaceships. Stormtroopers. Droids. A masked villain. Laser blasters. Light sabers. Dog fights between tie fighters and x-wing fighters. A fucking planet that sucks the energy from the sun and uses it to blow up other planets! Holy shit it was awesome! And if all that shit wasn’t enough, our protagonists Rey and Finn, while fleeing from the First Order, desperately board a battered old starship they find in a junk yard and when it takes off into the air it reveals itself to be none other than the Millennium Motherfucking Falcon! The entire place went ape shit crazy! And when Han Solo and Chewbacca showed up, Han declaring “Chewie, we’re home,” the whole joint just about exploded in simultaneous orgasm!
In that theatre, amid all the intergalactic awesomeness, I became quite emotional for the first in many years. My eyes actually became moist under my 3-D glasses and a hard lump formed in my throat as Han Solo proclaimed “it’s real, all of it, the Dark Side, the Jedi, they’re real”. Those words rang deep, transporting me back to a time when it was real – that nine year period over which I saw each episode of the original trilogy. Star Wars, in fact, was all that was real to me back then. Preoccupied with the movies, the books, the Kenner toys, I lived in the ignorant bliss of the moment. They were wonderful days, back when I was free from stress and fear, before I was plagued by thoughts of my own mortality, before I worried about holes in the goddamn ozone layer. In fact, for much of my youth the world was on the brink of annihilation and, for many of those years, I didn’t even know it! My obsession with the Jedi, the Force, the Sith, the Dark Side kept me completely oblivious to the fact that the United States and Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at one another in a scenario Carl Sagan likened to two lunatics standing waist deep in gasoline and threatening each other with matches. It would have taken only a pigeon being misinterpreted on a radar screen and we’d all have been incinerated! That of course never happened and I was none-the-worse for the years I failed to worry about the possibility. Had those missiles been launched, however, I would have enjoyed every second of my life, fearless and worry-free right up to the very instant I was vaporized.
And isn’t that, my friends, what it’s all about? That is, those isolated places we can build in space and time where we can take shelter from what’s happening elsewhere in the present, where we can blind ourselves to the misfortunes currently in-transit from our future, where we can turn off reality and let ourselves be entertained. I’m not sure what’s in your shelter but in mine there’s a screen and projected onto that screen, in a continuous loop, are Episodes IV, V, VI, and VII.
Now I realize that not everyone is a Star Wars fan and when I speak of it, I of course do so representatively, as a stand-in for our popular culture and all the things that entertain us. What makes it such a great example is that thousands of man hours and hundreds of millions of dollars were dedicated to creating this thing that is seemingly so unnecessary and without practical purpose. Star Wars didn’t cure any diseases, it didn’t feed the hungry, it didn’t lower crime rates, it didn’t generate clean energy, and it sure as hell didn’t restore the ecosystem. What it did do, however, was make people happy for a few hours. And in the grand scheme of our pre-nothingness, that is what makes everything worthwhile.
Sure, our existence may be a mistake. But we still have it. And we have all that bullshit that goes with it – the perpetual threat of financial insecurity, the loss of loved ones or love itself, family turmoil, health concerns, the eventual antiquation of our bodies and minds as we descend into the depths of arthritic pain, brittling bones, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and dementia. Yes, like it or not, there’s some really unpleasant shit lurking over the horizon for us and it’s all completely unavoidable. But we can seize and enjoy the moments before it gets to us. We can do so by enjoying and appreciating all those people, places, and things that entertain us, that distract us from the horrors and cold realities of this world, that give us reason to carry on despite the fact that we will be dead one day and it will all be as if it never happened.
And so, let us acknowledge and pay tribute:
To James Bond and Indiana Jones and Dirty Harry and Rambo and Batman and all those screen personalities who allow us to experience the adventures our dull lives don’t permit us.
To KISS and Metallica and Ozzy and Mick and Keith and that band with the groovy lights and the flying pig who give us reason to bang our heads, who compose the soundtrack to our lives, and who blow our minds with their concert spectacles.
To JLo and Beyonce and Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj for their boner-inducing videos and the mediocre-but-mildly-catchy tunes all the kids like so much.
To those fruits in One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer and that little asshole Justin Bieber for the smiles and rare moments of happiness they bring to the otherwise bitchy and morose adolescent girls.
To the Kardashians and Posh Spice and the bitches from The Hills who allow us to vicariously live their glamorous lives.
To Disney World and Disney Land and Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags and Chuck E. Cheese for providing us amusement and breaking up the monotony of our otherwise mundane lives.
To Football and wrestling and UFC and Monster Truck rallies for giving us something to cheer about and rally around and for serving as the backdrop to our irresponsible beer consumption and reckless behavior.
To Smartphones and Smart TVs and tablets and all those other assorted gadgets and gizmos that gratify our narcissistic desire to instantly share our vacation photos, breakfast choice, and current mood with the world; that allow us to watch our favorite reality shows and pornography on demand; that enable us to aerially surveil our neighbors’ yards for no legitimate purpose.
“But what of our Queen Mother Earth?” some of you may ask, as if we owe her something. You such individuals may question why we should not acknowledge and pay tribute to her, why we shouldn’t show our gratitude for all she provides by sacrificing our comfort and taking every possible measure to sustain her, even if only for another century or two. To you I say this – FUCK YOUR MOTHER EARTH! She’s a murdering whore who commits genocide on a regular basis with her with her earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other assorted weapons! If she were a person, rather than a planet, we’d be putting the bitch on trial for crimes against humanity! As for the potential future generations that may have gotten a chance to exist if there had been only a moderate reduction in greenhouse gases – WELL FUCK THEM TOO! They’ll never know it!
To quote Prince, “life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last”. Nonetheless a party is a party so I say let’s make it a good one! Eventually, and probably sooner than we realize, it will be over. How tragic it would be to have endured a shitty party on account of eco-friendliness, to have squandered our precious and wholly non-refundable time on the most futile of efforts. That would surely be as wasteful as the years I spent worrying about that ozone hole – worthwhile hours that I could have spent masturbating or otherwise enjoying life!
But if you wish to spend your remaining days worrying yourself sick about receding sea ice, acid rain, vampire energy, and beef cows shitting methane gas into the atmosphere, then so be it. I ask only that you don’t infringe on my inalienable right to pursue happiness, to be a consumer, to exercise my God given right to rape the land for all I can get from her. So go ahead, drive your Smart Car. Go without air conditioning in the summertime. Conserve and recycle then conserve some more and recycle again. It may not do much in the way of preserving a doomed planet in a self-destructing universe but perhaps it will help alleviate some of that psychotic guilt from which you suffer. As for me, I shall be partying like it’s nineteen ninety nine!
Carpe diem bitches! And may the Force be with you.