Some Random Thoughts About Doom

A postcard with the public domain "me wor...

A postcard with the public domain “me worry?” face that later inspired Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 29, 2013

Living things die. Non-living things erode or dissipate or quit working. It’s a fact of life, we say, that nothing lasts forever. I won’t. We won’t. The Empire we live in won’t. The earth we live on won’t. The sun that provides the energy for the earth we live on won’t.

So why do doomers worry so incessantly about doom and non-doomers worry so little about it? My own guess is, that both reactions are because we know, deep down inside, that how and when doom does come or things die, within certain limited parameters, is largely a matter of chance. And, doomer or non-doomer, we don’t like that. So, we pick our poison – worrying or not worrying, prepping or not prepping – and live our lives until, however the end comes, our time is up.

I thought about this last December, after that little old man in the big car made his too-short, left turn and knocked me over as I walked across the street. Sitting in my chair afterward, bruised and banged up, I realized that, for all my prepping for a future doom, the difference between being grazed by the car or being run over or dragged by the car –making the recovery that I did or being incapacitated or dead (my own personal doom) – was a matter of a few inches one way or the other, for me or the car.

And that’s the thing about doom. It’s just so darn fickle. It comes whether you’re looking for it or not and often comes in a way you didn’t expect even when you were looking for it. We worry about financial collapse, dwindling energy supplies, climate change, the end of the Empire. But none of what we know about these problems, let alone the way one may interact with the others, is written in stone. Science is about testing hypotheses and building the best, most accurate models we can from the evidence that testing provides. But no theory is ever said to be proven in science, simply because there is always the chance – no matter how small – that new evidence will come in to disprove a part of it or change the expected outcome of it in ways not considered before.

That’s not to say, we should all go Alfred E. Newman about these things. The terrible suffering these looming problems have already caused, are causing and will cause is real. Ask the people, worldwide, who lost everything they had in the 2008 economic collapse, Superstorm Sandy, the recent, ill-timed monsoons in India or the two unnecessary wars we’ve fought in Afghanistan and Iraq to prop up the Empire. And we’d be foolish not to do everything we can personally, nationally and globally to mitigate or prepare for those problems.

It is to say, we know certain events are highly probable; what we don’t know with certainty is how they will manifest themselves in these destabilized, complex and interacting systems. We can be pretty sure that as they move into new states, some of the side effects will be very unpleasant, some will be deadly for a certain percentage of the global population and some small percentage may actually thrive. The discontinuities may be abrupt, but the overall process is likely to be much slower than most of us expect. I’m with John Michael Greer on this;,   if we panic and yell, “Doom, doom” every time one of these discontinuities happens, we’ll not only not be taken seriously, but we’ll wear ourselves out.

Doom will come in its own sweet time. As it comes, in whatever form, some will die. Some will suffer, but survive. Some will thrive or find a way to make a buck off of it. And some will get hit by a car while they’re waiting around for doom. What’s for certain is, in the end of the end, none of us will make it out alive. So we may as well chill out a little, do what we can to prepare and help others  prepare, and savor those moments of pleasure life provides each of us while we can.

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19 Responses to Some Random Thoughts About Doom

  1. ChetM says:

    Good article. So what does it mean to prep if our civilization is not going to suddenly stop?

    So far the only answer that I have come up with is to prepare for series of great depressions remembering that life went on quite normally for many people during the great depression and some people actually prospered.

    In my own family my Father and Mother were both Okies and moved to California for a few years before they came back to southeastern Kansas and northeast Oklahoma just as WW II was starting. The impact of the great depression on my parents, and relatives, were memorable, but not disastrous. The only serious loss that I remember hearing about is that Grandpa lost a part of his farm and his new farm machinery after the 1929 crash. Lives went on. Civilization did not collapse.

    In thinking back to my upbringing, the biggest impact on my parents and relatives was that they continued to live as if the great depression was still going on for rest of their lives. Banks, most businesses, and in particular the stock market were not to be trusted. Making do and being self sufficient as possible was a way of life. In spite of all this they managed to live a comfortable middle class life.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Chet. My family’s stories about the Great Depression are very similar. Life just doesn’t come with guarantees. The dangers we face are certainly real, but so are the little beauties. Prep for the dangers, but don’t miss those beautiful moments. Life is just too short at best.

  2. graveday says:

    Chet, it sounds like they had enough. I mean that in a good way. John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and inventor, virtually alone, of the mutual fund idea, tells a story. Joseph Heller, the author of ‘Catch 22’ was talking to some rich guy who, upon hearing the amount of money Heller had, said ‘Why, that’s nothing’. Heller said whatever, but I have something you will never have. The rich guy asked what and Heller said, ‘Enough’.
    Add to that ‘Doom will come in its own sweet time’ and you have the makings of dessert, the just kind.

  3. jj says:

    We’ve taken a tack of being prepared for those eventualities we consider likely, as much as we can afford to without causing serious damage to the household budget. For instance, power outages are common here, and some have lasted uncomfortably long; we’re fairly well-prepared for that, with wind-up flashlights and radios, a camp stove, and the barbeque…but we can’t afford a generator.

    We’re okay with these compromises, and also choose to spend time and money on things that bring us joy, like art and travel; we strive to live well, and in such a way that we’ll be reasonably prepared if ‘doom’ comes in our lifetime, but also not bitter if it does not. I know of people who have invested so much in the idea of collapse and the preparations for it that they will be bitterly disappointed if it does not come soon; we don’t want to be like that.

    We mostly prepare for the highly likely – weather issues (storms, floods, droughts), decreasing standard of living, inflation, unemployment, and the like. And we also enjoy all of the amazing technologies and luxuries we have access to now, in our current life – rototillers, cars, gas furnaces, international flights, running water, internet, and the like. I think that’s a reasonable compromise.

    • theozarker says:

      I think that sounds like a good plan, JJ. Economies and even governments collapse fairly rapidly sometimes. Empires, I think, historically have taken much longer and “civilizations” even longer. That’s just my reading of history, but I see no reason why ordinary people, who mostly work together in times of disasters, are suddenly going to turn into mutant zombie bikers – barring civil war or something of that nature where ideologies are whipped up and manipulated. Just my thoughts anyway.

      • jj says:

        I’m not too concerned about zombie hordes. I live in a very rural area, with a very stable population (we’re the first new people to move here in a decade or so), where everyone knows everyone else, and people help out because that’s what you do. Folks here tend to be no-nonsense, and don’t tolerate BS. Fortunately, we fit in well, and have been accepted with open arms. We share around the eggs from our backyard chickens, and the local farmers drop off grain bin sweepings that they can’t sell, but which make great chicken feed. Free feed for me means lots of extra eggs to share around…it works out to everybody’s benefit.

        I think community building, from getting to know your neighbors to investing in the local gift economy is a much-overlooked ‘prep’, if you want to call it that – it also just makes for an easier life in a nicer neighborhood, and is therefore basic common sense, to me 🙂

      • theozarker says:

        “I think community building, from getting to know your neighbors to investing in the local gift economy is a much-overlooked ‘prep’ …”

        I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Infinitea says:

    We can see the patterns repeating themselves, like the fractals in time that they are. What we can’t predict is what slight deviation this particular fractal of the pattern will reveal. We get caught up in the details and lose sight of the overall pattern, becoming ineffective in dealing with the details at the same time. (That’s where I happen to be.)

    The pattern we’re seeing is similar to the pattern of death. The changes that occur monthly, weekly, daily, hourly are an indication as to how close a person’s death is. (I was told this while I was caretaking my Mom as she was dying last year.) Right now, we’re seeing a lot of changes worldwide, environmentally, politically, etc. on an almost daily basis. Seems it won’t be long before changes occur hourly.

  5. theozarker says:

    I’ve always been sort of amazed, working in hospitals for 25 years, how long people who are “terminal” can fight off death when they’re determined to. Guess it’s the same with Empires?

  6. Well said! JMG has really helped me to step back from the “crazy” place and keep things in perspective. I am not a prepper, but I do my best to be a resiliant and productive member of my community in these challenging times.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Josef, welcome to the blog. Yes, Greer did that for me, too. I like his broad historical perspective. I’m not a prepper in the sense of tons of food, guns, ammo stored. Mainly, at my age, I’m just trying to keep my garden, depend as little as possible on fossil fuels, maintain relationships with the neighbors and keep the roof over my head from leaking.

      We forget that, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are mental constructs, not evolutionary ones and comfort, like beauty, is pretty much “in the eye of the beholder,” as they say.

  7. graveday says:

    When working as a medical technologist I was reminded to keep life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at the forefront as I signed off on lab reports, especially involving drugs. Life, as in a possible overdose. Liberty as in a parole violation. Pursuit of happiness as in losing out on a job.
    I thought that was a pretty neat tie in. It was a massive tome authored by Tietz.

  8. Silvia TIC says:

    Hi Linda,
    I agree with you in that some of the things we “expect” are a matter of chance. But some are a matter of certainty, the “chance” portion is where, when and how exactly would these things develop. We don’t know where the next storm will hit, or the next flood (see recent floods in Alberta, Canada, for example), but we know the climate has been already changed and will continue this path worsening as we haven’t done anything to stop or reduce the emissions. We don’t know when exactly the next food crisis will hit either, but we know is close in time and location. We know we have become too dependent on extremely complex and fragile systems, and we have lost our connection with the land and the skills to feed ourselves. We know also that we have created the perfect environment for a pandemic, and that our health care system wouldn’t rise to the challenge…I can continue forever but you are as aware as I am of all this.
    Will doom come in small or big portions? In this I partially agree. I’m Argentinean, I know how crises can hit all of a sudden to lots of people, without time to think or prepare. I also lived many years in Venezuela, a country whose democratic system has collapsed (if ever existed) and is right now peppered with food and other resources shortages. Power outrages and water scarcity are everyday experiences there. I also have friends in Spain and Italy. Unemployment hit most of them “out of the blue” and there is nothing left, not even land to grow your own food (they laugh at me when I suggest those options)
    I certainly agree with you that we may chill out and enjoy the journey. I have done so, but not too much: I still believe preparation is necessary. Skills, more than stockpiling (although that can help you to get by for a few days or weeks) and feel ready for whatever comes (even when we may never be ready for some of the things that may come). And making friends and connecting with the community. Those are also ways to stop the “doomer” inside us and switch to a more “positive” and proactive state. The doom, though, looms inside…

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Silvia. (BTW, I put a link to your blog over on the left. Some good articles and links at your site.) I liked the Greer article I linked to in my post because I think he’s right about our propensity to see only the positive feedback loops and not recognize the negative feedback loops that exist in systems. Even in new states, both come into play as the system struggles toward a new homeostasis. And all our man-made systems interact with each other as well as with the earth system in which they exist. And, of course, we are a complex system existing within all these other complex systems. All with their/our own positive and negative feedback systems. So it’s hard for me to stay a doomer ALL the time – heheh.

      • Silvia TIC says:

        You are right; my first reaction was “doom” 24/7, now I am busy with projects and changing myself. Now my doomer side is working only 2h/day, mostly when I read the news or when I see how so many are still unaware or choose not to step up. 

      • theozarker says:

        Yes, my initial reaction, too. I got about six months of food saved back, then the roof sprung a leak, ruining the bathroom ceiling and the porch roof began to collapse. My son and I ate the preps to come up with the money to fix those things. Now, I prep what I can and keep aware that life has a way of intervening at the most inconvenient times, whether we like it or not. So there you are. 😀

  9. Yep. To doom or not to doom. That is the question All of our planning as doomers or not could be in vain. Take onto account the Black Swan Theory:

    Nothing is certain anywhere, anytime. And yet, I feel that as a doomer…….oops, No, not a doomer but an absolute realist, that I must prepare.

    Each of us though has a Type 1 or Type 2 response.

    Should we ignore the evidence and proceed as normal or should we prepare? I like this post because anyone can think whatever they want but still the message from this post seems to be that we should still try to be real and earnest and human.

    Another post that strives to build us as a somewhat new community is here:

    Thanks. A great post.

  10. theozarker says:

    Hi IF, thanks for the thoughts and the links. I think it’s wise to prepare for what we can, but we are humans and if we lose our humanity, we are just in-humans. Not a thing I would advise we aspire to. 😀

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