Today the word Mortality is being examined in bold letters regarding for our species and in smaller plain print by individuals in this convergent moment. Scientists and religious fundamentalist have been busy writing an obituary for our species in upper case letters. As the Baby Boomers globally turn into Elder Boomers, they again challenge conventional routines and rituals. Likewise younger people put on the zombie costumes of the walking dead and extend the discussion of mortality across space and generations.
On source of apocalyptic thought issues from the realms of science and medicine. Before Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s atomic blaze, Einstein and his peers stood in awe of our technological capacities. Shortly thereafter they hung their heads and wondered aloud if homo sapiens possessed the wisdom to use their gifts wisely. Carl Sagan later pointed out how a mutually destructive nuclear war would produce a nuclear winter without victors.
In the late 60s environmentalists began warning how spiraling population growth could become a hidden weapon of mass destruction. Then climatologists showed logarithmically escalating temperature and CO2 charts. These became road maps for turning earth’s garden of Eden into a poisonous and lifeless twin to Venus. Soon all the earlier science fiction promises faded and today most sci-fi stories and movies are cast against an apocalyptic landscape.
The other major stream about end-times spews from extreme fundamentalists and anti-government paramilitary anarchists. Both groups call for a holy war against everyone not like them. American Evangelicals-Fundamentalists and Anarchists aim their sites at gays and pro-choice doctors. ISIS and the Taliban (when not fighting each other) bring their cleansing slaughter to innocent civilians of all ages and all religions. Israeli bulldozers sporting the Star of David mow down Palestinian homes for Zionist settlers in the land where all religions were born. All radical fundamentalists promise an end of days, rapture for the true believers, and hell on Earth for the non-believers.
Into the breach steps the younger generations known as Twenty-Somethings, Millenials, Generation X, etc. Many join Vampire and Zombie Meetups. They put on make-up and costumes to pose and dance at parties and gatherings. These groups organize book clubs, movie nights, 5K races, and parades. One can join Zombie Apocalypse groups practicing combat skills, studying permaculture or living off the land, and exploring barter economies. They prepare for all levels of disaster including economic downturns, natural disaster, or atomic wars. The Vampire Meet-ups gather for similar reasons and also push out into the occult, extraterrestrial and paranormal realms.
Like every youthful crowd they embrace rebelling against the conventional wisdom and routines of their parents. Both Zombies and Vampire societies can be found preparing for the end-of-time prediction, as in a zombie apocalypse. In this way, like other youths, they often unconsciously voice their parent’s viewpoints. Yes, it can all be dismissed as escapist behaviors, but I believe it serves a healthier goal. Their mocking provides a breathing space in a landscape choked by dark mutterings.
My book on contemporary obituary writing begins with a preface asking Why This Book, Why Now? This is followed by this short poetic observation:
Something stirs the still, still air of our daily habits.
Increasingly our conversations and comforting laughter
chase after the topics of light and shadow.
Can you hear the mortality-mindful discussions breaking through the surface?
I believe we live in a convergent moment where the larger apocalyptic mood encourages everyone to reflect, however unconsciously, on his or her mortality. As a result, both young and old find solace and meaning in conducting a life-review as we face into our individual and species-wide mortality. A life-review asks us to count our blessings. Then as we speculate about tomorrow, most conclude it is best to experience the present moment to its fullest. As we sum up the bitter and the sweet, the funny and serious, we realize how an obituary worth reading encourages to find a path towards a life worth living.
Vincent Van Gogh wrote in his diary Either we all survive or none of us will. Perhaps working inclusively together we can find our way.