cw: the end of the world, apocalypse, mental health
Today’s thoughts are nostalgic and smell like everything I can remember from being seventeen years old. I’ve been listening to “Time Machine” by Daisy the Great and the lyrics are vaguely hopeful with an underpinning of horror. The song reminds me a lot of “White Flash” by David Wirsig, in its soothing quietness and stark lyrics.
The sky is burningselection from “Time Machine” by Daisy the Great
No more need to hurry
We were right to worry
We were right to worry
The birds are gone now
The time has come now
Just close your eyes now
Just close your eyes now
The sea is crying
The moon is sighing
It’s all around us
The end has crowned us
The star has found us
You know, just a little bit horrifying.
And if there’s one thing that connects those thoughts, it’s what large language models mean ethically, it’s playing Fallout 4 with mods but deciding to leave the settlements looking dirty and broken when I could clean them up, because it’s been 200 years since the bombs dropped and everyone is just doing their best; it’s watching Station Eleven and The 100; it’s these lyrics from “White Flash,” about the moments inside the experience of a nuclear bomb detonation:
Gone, gone the daysselection from “White Flash” by David Wirsig
We’d sit outside and watch the weathervane
Gone the smell of summer rain
Gone the midnight drives and passing trains
Gone, gone the nights
When we would lay and dream of another life
A golden child, a scarlet wife
Would turn to dust, the same, when the end arrived
We were scared of the days to come
We could only hope our fear would make us numb
But when you smiled, did it feel so wrong?
Beneath the blown out husk of an atom bomb
It won’t be quite so bad when it finally comes
It’s just a bright, white flash and then it’s gone
And fire fills your frightened eyes
As the groaning glow intensifies
And your features shine in sharp relief
Your soul exposed in a moment brief
Your fears and your hopes and your memories
The one I was always meant to see
And only darkness evermore
It’s watching people play with those large language models as if we have anything but violence, colonialism, selfishness, and failure to teach them. How can they give us anything good if we have nothing good to offer? Or: can our goodness, hope, justice, and ability to adapt make a meaningful difference? Do they balance out? Are we co-creating a version of the worst of ourselves? Are we playing with the understanding of a living organism?
It’s all these things blending together in my mind and heart along with my annual summer seasonal affective disorder; the hotter and brighter it gets, the more I have to hide in the dark and hope to catch a breath of cooler air.
I’ve been trying to find something to watch or to listen to that doesn’t feel full of hopelessness or danger, and right now that’s pretty difficult. It’s the same problem that I have when everything I see reminds me of death — good old confirmation bias again. I don’t necessarily want to see our possible impending fate everywhere, but it seems like that’s all I can see.
The process of bringing my writing over from Substack meant that I spent a lot of time re-reading what I created so that I could categorize it properly and pick images that spoke to me, and I forgot how much time I spent talking about apocalypse(s). I only wrote an overview of what I saw as seven different kinds of apocalypse, and then later I expanded a bit on the apocalypse of the self, but there are six ideas remaining, and I think they deserve my time and thought as well.
I know I’m not very old yet, although there are things that remind me that the time of my growing-up is gone and behind us. There is a part of me — the teenager-turned-young-adult, flannel-wearing and trying so hard, driving a mostly broken car that broke an impressive handful of alternators, not really knowing who I was, but so positive that I knew anyway — that just wants to go to sleep and dream of that time. To bury myself in memories of only what was hopeful and good, so that I can stop witnessing the fire and pain around me.
But even my old memories are flawed, because I am flawed. And all my nostalgia is for an experience only I was having, even if it’s part of an overall generational experience. I can’t go back to where I started. None of us can.
The only way out is through, I suppose. 1Yes, I know, the proper quote is Robert Frost’s “The best way out is always through.”
Collectively, all of this has to come back to abolitionist ideas.
Collectively, we need to learn how to trust one another. We need to learn how to disagree and use that as a set of stepping stones toward an idea that we all can sign onto. We need to learn how to work hard at knowing ourselves, and to put down the weapons of our thoughts and voices that lead us to separate ourselves from one another. We have to look for the ways that communal interdependence and mutual aid already exist and pour ourselves into those places, because that is what will save us.
We have to remind ourselves that we will rise or fall together. That we can certainly choose to go alone, but that togetherness is where we find and create love, acceptance, forgiveness, justice, accountability, and hope. Living in community with my chosen family has given me a leg up on understanding more about how to … well, how to actually live in community with others. My inclination is to pull away, and I am learning to love and trust in situations where it scares me to do so.
I don’t mean to imply that as a collective, we can undo the harm that billionaires and corporate greed have done. We can’t stave off apocalypse. I think what we can do, maybe the only thing we can actually do, is to learn new ways of being and behaving from what apocalypse can teach us. My therapist tells me that my grief has things to teach me; I believe that our collective griefs and wounds can do that too.
If you have the time and inclination, abolition is for everybody is so good.
I wish for you a beautiful experience of hope, even just one tiny moment, to keep you from feeling so alone today.
- 1Yes, I know, the proper quote is Robert Frost’s “The best way out is always through.”