I’ve been coming to grips with the apocalyptic upbringing I’ve had growing up in a small town in Oregon. From an early age I’ve been fed a steady diet of apocalyptic rhetoric ranging from nuclear holocaust to financial collapse induced chaos, and everything in between. Growing up I ate it up, and baked it all into my world view. It is something that I can now look back and understand how it caused me to spin out of control as a young man. It is something that in my 40s I’m finally beginning to understand, and gain perspective after putting many years in between me and my youth, as well as some distance between my current life and my rural upbringing.
In Oregon, focusing on the world as we know it ending is “normal”. Most people I grew up with spend a significant portion of their days contemplating it, and it preoccupies many folks so that they end up investing most of their life, money, and energy toward preparing for the world ending in some form or another. Once I’ve gotten some distance from it, while also continuing to watch it play out through my Facebook connections, I’ve come to realize what a disease this mindset is. One that afflicts mostly white, poor, rural folks, but is something that can spread to other communities, and groups of people depending on their level of fear of the world around them.
From my vantage point I can see this perspective for what it is now–fear, poverty, isolation. When you are in it, it is difficult to see if for what it is. It becomes almost comforting. You have something to keep you busy. It keeps you distracted from the condition that is your existence. While I still bothered by talk of the apocalypse, financial collapse, and general dangers of the world, I feel like I’m finally finding enough success and distance where it is something that makes me more sad, than angry. I feel bad for folks who dwell here. The idea of being given a life, only to spend it worrying about things taking a turn for the worst is troubling. You have a life, within a fairly stable society, but you look forward to things going wrong every day of your life. You want it to happen. You desire and dream about it.
Waiting for the government to come for you. The financial system to collapse. Society to break down. All seem to be symptoms of a larger illness. Something I want to understand more. For the first time in 45 years I feel like I’ve moved beyond this illness, but now I’m determined to understand the condition better. I don’t think I will ever be cured of this disease. It has impacted my life too significantly. Even with the ability to look at it in the rear view mirror, and on social media channels, I can still drift back in my 19 year old head where I thought it was real. I can still see the year 2000 which I never thought I’d live to see. Even with these images in my head, I no longer stress over nuclear war, or what tomorrow brings. I prefer to live now. I could have the knowledge of some calamity right around the corner, and I’d still just live today.
I think often about the people I know who fret over things breaking down daily. Completely sure that just over the horizon things are going to fall apart. Perpetually believing it will happen despite it not happening over and over again. A broken record of calamity and doom, but you can’t hear each skip, or the song repeating. I don’t know how to help them out of their rut. I don’t know how to show them how bright the future can be. I don’t know how to help them see the world is only as scary as they’ve been told and continue to believe. I wish I could walk them through the world as I see it, and help them know that there is more to all of this. That this is no way to live, and that it only allows you to be controlled by others.
Can you imagine spending your life thinking the world is going to end? To be given the gift of life, but to set it aside to live in a bubble of fear and misinformation? I’m so thankful for each day. To be able to do what I do. Know the people I know. To have the experiences I have had, and will continue to have. Each day is special. Why would I want to throw it away thinking something bad will happen? I just can’t do that anymore. I do not expect to live forever, which makes each day precious. It makes it something I have to work hard to showcase, discuss, and talk about. Who knows, maybe I can help one more person see this condition, and find a way to move beyond it. Be able to see the world for what it is, and not what we fear it being.