I hate how often I think about the most likely scenarios regarding the destruction of planet Earth. Some nights, I stay awake researching the timeline of the far future, imagining what it might look like when Betelgeuse explodes in a supernova. Or what it might feel like to be alive on Earth when it’s engulfed by the Sun.
Sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to be a bat, an eagle catching its prey, that stranger I saw smiling on the subway, or dead. I think about why I’d want a physicist to deliver the eulogy at my funeral and remind the attendees that “all the photons that bounced from [Jesi] were gathered in the particle detectors that are [their] eyes, that those photons created within [their] constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.”
There are moments when I’m either too stress or too bored to think straight and I close my eyes and think about what a sunset might have looked like three million years ago. Before air pollution, before concrete jungles sprang up and obstructed our views of the sky above.
It’s things like that that always make me pause before answering when someone asks, “how are you?”
Usually, I tend to think of a basic, regular, degular, shmegular response that captures some semblance of how I’m genuinely feeling. Something like, “I’m decent” or “you know, taking life one moment at a time” or “I don’t know, but I’m trying to appreciate all of life’s blessings.”
In the back of my mind, though, I’m really thinking, “it worries me that everywhere I go could be my final resting place and my name could become a viral hashtag under some tragic circumstances and even if that doesn’t happen I’m still an unknown number of heartbeats away from my inevitable death. Oh, and polar bears are drowning. ” Nine times out of ten I’ll just say, “good, and you?”
Maybe one of these days I’ll respond with, “actually, I’m curious to know if you’re as stressed about Near Earth Objects and their capacity to completely destroy human civilization as we know it. Especially given society’s lack of focus on astronomical dangers and threats.”
It would really, really suck to live through a mass extinction event involving a several-miles-wide asteroid. Would our deaths be immediate but dramatic or slow, painful, and horrifically graphic? Would we be killed on impact? I’m guessing the site of impact would determine how many people died and in what way.
Speaking of mass extinction events, is structural violence to us — and by “us” I mean all living things impacted by capitalism, imperialism, and global inequity — what the alleged asteroid was to the dinosaurs 65 million years ago? War, genocide, fatal police encounters, lack of access to quality medical services, environmental racism, the list goes on. Are we experiencing a mass extinction event right now?
Are we even alive right now? What does it even mean to be alive? To exist? To not be dead? To not be? To be? How many levels of being are there? Are they levels or degrees? Speaking of degrees, how is it that that Sun’s surface temperature is approximately 10,000 Fahrenheit? That’s hot as fuck.
On a related yet unrelated note, imagine what it must be like to see the Earth from the moon. Or from the International Space Station? Watching this giant orb of rock, water, and vegetation floating in a vast expanse of darkness cradled by a blanket of star-freckled spacetime.
On that note, when Kant encouraged people to think about the concepts of “space” and “time”, not as actual entities existing in the universe but, as frameworks within which we organize our thoughts and ideas about the external world…I felt that. What does it mean know what anything is? Do our beliefs and thoughts and ideas about things tell us actual truths, necessary truths, about what they are in essence?
Would an asteroid by any other name still destroy the shit out of us? If we didn’t even have names for things how would we describe them?
Was Sprite Remix the best soda to ever exist? Will there be underwater human civilizations one day? Does life exist in the oceans of Europa? Did Disney Channel think we were stupid when they changed the actress who played Marnie in Return to Halloweentown? Wouldn’t it suck to turn into a pillar of salt?
Maybe it wouldn’t because you couldn’t feel anything. But who’s to say what salt feels.
Not me. Who even is “me”?
Who even are you?
Existence is complicated but complications are constructs. Things happen. We respond. We suffer. We laugh. We love. We cry. We get asked how we’re doing and rarely have the opportunity to express what’s really on our minds.
Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.