Sunday, December 16, 2012

12-21-12: The End is Nigh

First, let's just get this out of the way: I don't believe the world will end on December 21. I don't know what the Mayans supposedly predicted or why. Furthermore, I don't really care. Believing in the end of the world is a lot like believing in God, or unicorns, or the infallibility of the pope, or that Jesus raised the dead, that the NHL strike will end by Christmas, or that a friend of mine is sleeping with her best friend's husband. Perhaps, in good time, I will know the answer to all these burning issues.

But right now--and this might shock you--I freely admit that I JUST DON'T KNOW!

There, I said it.

Now, I'm not so arrogant as to think we're indestructible. And by "we" I mean you. I might well be indestructible. I just don't know. See the quandary I'm in?

You, however, I'm willing to leave dangling for experimental purposes. Since your indestructibility has not been proven to me--and yet, I admit, since you're still alive, neither has your destructibility (ten points for Gryffindor!)--I am going to assume, for the sake of rhetoric, that you are expendable and soluble.

But here's my point: The world might not end on Dec. 21, 2012. Or it might. You don't get to choose.

You can choose which to believe, or not to believe, or what have you. But you don't actually get to decide what happens on that day.

I think the world as we know it will end some day. I don't know if the earth is indestructible. It might be, but I doubt it. There's always some bigger planet with which it might collide, or some asteroid that might bump into us in a few billion years or less and send us careening off our axis, flinging us into the sun and screaming for our lives.

Most likely, the earth will remain intact. We, on the other hand (by which I mean you), might well be shrugged off the planet's back like nothing but the ticks and lice we so often resemble in our behaviour.

Odd thing is, despite the sarcastic tone of this post thus far, I mean it in exactly the opposite way. I would give my life for this planet because, let's face it, without this planet I am nothing.

Meanwhile, we are here now and surely that counts for something.

A friend of mine said the other day that her child came home from school asking if he had to go to school on the day of the supposed apocalypse because, really, if the world ended, he didn't want to spend it in school.

What a wise lad.

My response was that we should all take that day off, use it as a day to celebrate life and the miracle that is our existence on this planet. Far better than spending the day in mourning, no matter how it turns out.

December 21 (or Dec. 20, whichever) should be an unofficial holiday. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You wake up that morning, you throw caution to the chilly breeze and say, "I'm not going to work/school/basket weaving/license plate making or pottery class today. I'm spending the next 24 hours doing everything I want to do--not stuff I have to do." So maybe you call a few people and tell them you love them. It could even be people you know.

Personally, I wouldn't do that. I hate telephones. I might email a few people I've been meaning to respond to for a while now--but only if I seriously care about whether they hear from me. I mean, I'm not going to waste my time talking to people who don't mean that much to me. I'd have to check my Facebook page, though, and maybe scan Twitter for Cecil Haire's Road Report (if there were zombies on the highway, Cecil would be the first to know because he's always in Long Harbour before breakfast and on his way back into town by the time the sun comes up).

The thing is to act like it was your last day on earth. You could get drunk. But I don't see the point in that unless it's getting drunk/stoned with friends with whom you love spending time with, maybe singing some songs like "The Night Pat Murphy Died" or "Molly Bawn." I'm not sure what people sing when all they listen to is rap. I guess you could spend the last few minutes of your life trying to remember the words to "Love in this Club, Part II" or "Nothin' But a 'G' Thing." Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm sure there are more appropriate tunes, but I don't know any.

If it was my last day on earth, I would probably want to spend two solid hours sitting at the seashore, feeling the wind on my face. Or perhaps just an hour there and another hour in the woods. Really, just feeling. I mean, that's always been the thing with me. Whatever I do, I try to feel it. Sometimes I manage; sometimes I don't. Nothing worse than doing something when your heart's not in it.

I'd go home then and spend an hour reading a few poems from my favourite poets. Maybe something from Dylan Thomas or Walt Whitman, and definitely some Yeats, maybe a chapter from a favourite novel. Not even sure what that would be. But it would have to be something appropriate, maybe from Alas, Babylon or The Road. Or maybe something from the first novel I ever read, Little Women, for the sake of nostalgia. I wouldn't read from Revelations at that point, though, because that would just piss me off.

Mind you, I'd probably be drinking the occasional bit too--but not so much that I couldn't feel. That would be stupid. I've often said that if the end of the world were to come, I'd want to be here to see it because, I mean, if it's only going to happen once, why would I want to miss that? Sure, it would be horrible. The carnage would be unimaginable. The stock markets would plummet. The "Hot Topics" on The View would be too emotional to take. CNN would be just rolling clips of people running around the Wal-mart with shopping carts full of water, batteries and hygiene products, with a wild look in their eyes like we were getting a major snowstorm or it was Black Friday. I'm not sure my heart could take it really. But I'm no coward. Well, not when it comes to apocalypses. Apocalypsi. Whichever. But every time we have one, I plan to be there. It's a testament to my masculinity, a test of courage.

Seriously, though, I'm not planning for the end of the world. I mean, what kind of stupid arse does that? If it comes, it comes and there's nothing you can do about it. You just kind of go with it. If the end of days comes, I don't think I'd be too content with a few jugs of water, a cupboard full of potato chips, and a shotgun. If that's what you've got standing between you and the cannibalistic hordes beating on your door, I'd say your pretty much done for anyways. Might as well do all your living right now.

Oh, back to the list of things. Okay, so there's the time on the beach and in the woods. Check. Good reading. Check. Some good beer. But no drugs because they dull the senses.

I'd actually like to have lunch with all the people I like in the world. But that's not likely because they don't necessarily all like me enough to spend even a part of their last day on earth with me. I get it. No biggie. Maybe I should've answered that last email. But I'd have a small gathering in my home, a few songs, as I said, tell them all how lucky they are to have me in their lives. No, wait, I mean, tell them how lucky I am to be in their lives, how I wish we could spend the rest of our lives together.

Then wait for the eerie silence, followed by nervous laughter and a sense of relief before the music breaks out (assuming the eerie silence wasn't followed by a loud bang, or someone breathing heavy and having sex in another room. That would just be awkward).

As evening comes on, I want my wife and I to say goodbye to our guests and shut the door on the world.

Fade to black. You don't need to know what we do after we shut the door.

Okay, then, fade to light and colour again. We'd sit together and talk. Maybe light a few candles. Hold hands. Reminisce. Talk about how good it was to see everyone that day, even the one who kept bawling into his beer and making inappropriate comments to the women, telling them all how much he wished he'd slept with each of them ('cause that would totally happen). We'd try not to mention how, even at pre-apocalypse gatherings, family can drive you nuts sometimes. And secretly you wish for an apocalypse so you don't have to do it all over again over Christmas.But mostly, my wife and I would just watch each other's faces in the glow of the candle light, bask in the shadows and say "I love you" a few times, then wait for the evening to end.

Then I'd put "Love You Till the End" by the Pogues on repeat on my iPod, just loud enough to hear it, then fade off to sleep.

That would be a good day.

I think I'll do that, or something akin to it.

Peace and love, everybody.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Kicking and screaming at the darkness

Forgive me while I rant and roar.

We're all sick of the shooting, the killing, the cruelty.

I don't know why some people feel the need to kill other people. Sitting in a mall food court. Going to a summer movie. Starting a kindergarten class for the day.

Even writing that last one makes me want to give in to the urge to curse and cry and hit and scream that there are some people who should not be allowed to live with the rest of us.

I feel no forgiveness for these people who do these things. They are monsters. I don't care how "sick" they are, if they're off their meds, if someone bullied someone, if someone's mother is a bad parent. I don't know the situation, don't know the reasons and don't really want to know.

I've seen it said on Facebook in the last few hours that people should not leap to conclusions. That we should seek answers instead of shouting at the devil.

Fine. Let's seek answers. But if someone is insane, I feel sympathy for them only up until they start shooting people. Then I hate them. Show me the switch and I'll pull it. If you kill a child who has done nothing to deserve such abominable treatment, you deserve to have horrible things happen to you.

Nonsense being spewed about how so many people die of starvation or get killed in far-off wars, or executed or persecuted at the callused hands of despotism. Hundreds and thousands, every day. And yet we don't care about them? So why should we care about these twenty children and six adults? I don't care about the shooter. He can rot in a hell of his own creation. I'm done with him.

It's a cynical age, and it's circular rationalizing like this that confuses and hardens us more and more. Don't try to deprive anyone of their right to mourn, to feel something. We live in times when it's almost a miracle to get people to care about anyone else at all, so when something so tragic happens, there's always someone saying, "Yeah, well, you didn't cry over the ones who died doing such-and-such last week, did you? So what gives you the right to cry now?"

Fair enough logic. But logic has nothing to do with it. It's not hypocritical to feel and to express that feeling. It's human and natural. We are not just thinking beings. We also have feelings.

I would like to feel something for people in faroff lands. And I actually do. But they don't touch me quite the same. See, now I'm being forced to qualify and quantify my varying levels of mourning and emotions. I won't do it. I'm not saying it all on Facebook. In fact, I turned my profile photo black today because I lacked the words to express the level of frustration and anger I feel. See, it's not just grief. It's not just that I feel bad for those kids, their parents and grandparents and other family members. I feel angry.

I always feel betrayed when one of our own species gives in to the darkness, feeds the darkness and becomes one with it.

There is good in the world. Much, much good in the world that often borders on greatness.

I spent the morning downtown today, talking to people who were enjoying the sunshine, glad to be in somewhere out of the cold, chattering happily to one another and smiling. What a great, shining moment it was, and I came home feeling that the world is good. People are wonderful.

And then I turn on the computer and find... this. This hideous thing. This monkey in an Ikea shop. This monster with a gun (several, in fact) shows what awful things we are capable of. He wasn't strong enough, so he tried to prove how strong he was. Wasn't important enough, so he tried to grab power.

But he's not important. If I could, I would erase his existence from the history books, from school records and church records, and I would burn his body and send his ashes flying to the wind without a single witness. I would train his parents and friends to never utter his name again.

But I can't do that. And I know it would be wrong. Because history, both micro and macro, is filled with atrocities whose name must be spoken so that they are not repeated. The Holocaust. Pearl Harbour. Hiroshima. 9-11. And many, many before those and since, both newsmaking and unknown.

But here's the kicker: such darkness will be repeated, time and time again, over and over again.

See, the rest of us get the message. There are hundreds of millions of us. Good people who just want to go about our lives, striving to be happy, working our jobs, making our way through a world that is, many times, inhospitable to us. But there are always a few idiots with guns who want to take away our peace of mind--and they do. They are terrorists of a sort, keeping us on edge, fearful of sending our children to school, afraid of walking the street alone at night, looking over our shoulders when we would rather be care-free.

It's not an either-or kind of issue : Get rid of as many guns as is reasonably possible. Without them, fewer people would die. You can't save everyone, so let's save as many as possible. The argument will arise, as it did last summer when that maniac bolted into a movie theatre and killed all those people: if someone in there had possessed a gun, he wouldn't have gotten away with it. But I stand by my own argument at the time: the problem wasn't that there weren't enough guns in the room but that there were too many.

Yes, we need to take more precautions to prevent and treat mental illness. No question about it.

We also need to pay more attention to each other.

And one final thing: while, until this moment, I haven't been splattering Facebook and Twitter with my dark thoughts, I wish people would stop trying to take a strip out of those who do. We live in an age where people take immediately to FB and its lesser cousin to let people know what they're feeling. It's a way of making your thoughts count, or simply working your stuff out in a way so that you don't feel quite so alone. You like to know there are like-minded souls out there. The beauty of Facebook is that it connects us. So when tragedy occurs, let's not verbally abuse people who want to feel connected at a time when it seems the very fabric of our world is ripping apart at the seams.

Melodramatic? Not really. I know the world will go on just the same after this, once the days start to pass and the healing begins. The world will keep on spinning, and lives will continue just the same. But there is something about this gunman--about every whack job with a loaded weapon who decides to take some lives--that reminds us of how fragile it all is.

And we all react according to who we are, who we've always been.

There is good in the world. Hang on to that as if it were your god. Because there are days like this when you are going to need it, no matter what your religion, no matter your level of empathy or cynicism, no matter what.

There are days when, for one terrible moment, you don't even feel like kicking at the darkness anymore. Because the darkness is strong and threatens to overwhelm you.

But that's when you need to take time and reflect. Get it all out. Scream at the walls. Hug your child. Shed your tears.

Or, if it's your wont, give a helpless shrug.

Either way, you've got to rise up and take back the world, or continue to create something that you never had but always wanted. The world has always been dark because of a proverbial handful of (mostly) men who hold the rest of us for ransom, stealing, raping and plundering their way to some sort of dark reward.

But I don't think the answer is to start shooting back. The answer is to take away their ability to shoot.

You will never take away their reasons for shooting since, as someone quoted someone earlier today on FB, insanity doesn't have a reason.

There are some people who are affronted by kindness, by happiness, and even by innocence.

Some people are just that way--either born that way or made that way.

And, while I'm tempted to leave my diatribe on that negative note, I can't--simply because kicking at the darkness is not just a stolen line from a Bruce Cockburn song.

It's what we do, what we have to do. Because the alternative is just too awful to bear.

Hug your children. Be kind to one another. Light a candle or sit by a warm fire with your best friend beside you. Say the words that make everything feel good.

Pray, if it makes you feel better. But pray without expectations for others.

And most of all, tomorrow, pay a little more attention--not just to those who harm, but to those who could simply use a little more care.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Drawing for Moonlight Sketches

I'm drawing for a free copy of Moonlight Sketches in 15 minutes from now.

Hop on over to :!/pages/Gerard-Collins-Author/176696569065790 to enter.

Drawing takes place at 6 p.m. Newfoundland time Saturday evening, December 1.