A Thought Experiment, Courtesy of My Subconscious

There’s a lot to be considered.

I woke up on the morning I wrote this with a sentence from my dream still echoing through my head. To wit: At the end of the world, will the last human left to die feel bitterness or relief?

Wow. My subconscious is profound. I’m impressed. My first instinct was to write that down so I could blog about it.

My second, of course, was to ponder the question. And it’s quite the can of worms once you pop it open. There’s a lot to be considered.

First of all, without knowing what caused the end of the world, it’s hard to gauge whether you’d be able to make a go of it, all alone, until a ripe old age. I’ve often said that I’d prefer to have a nuclear bomb land right on the crown of my head rather than trying to survive a nuclear winter. It’s a quality of life thing. Why prolong the inevitable?

Was the end quick in coming, or did humans have time to destroy everything on the way out? That would make a huge difference, too. If change is to come, let it be swift.

But what if the end of the human world were brought on by a pandemic and you found yourself to be immune? It would be lonely, but I think I’d like to stick around and enjoy the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees for as long as I could. I wouldn’t want to be in a large city, though. The smell alone would be horrific, at least for the first many years.

I would grieve for people, and for my past, no doubt about it. But I think the sheer size of that grief, and the finality of it all, might make the feeling implode under its own weight. There’d be nothing for it but to get on with things.

If I were absolutely certain that I was the last human on earth, I would have considerably less to be afraid of. Most of my fear springs from the actions of other humans. Nature can be harsh, and it would be a struggle to survive, but human violence would be a thing of the past. That might be nice, all things considered.

I hope I’d have a dog for a companion.

There’d be no more need for money. I’d become a scavenger, no doubt, and would have to move to a mild climate. Or maybe I’d migrate like the other animals, and have a summer home and a winter home. I’m sure I’d garden. I’d probably forget how to talk, but there’d be no shortage of books. And as an occasional treat, I’d break into a museum. Just to look around. I’d become adept at breaking and entering. First stop: The nearest Amazon warehouse. I’d raid it not for frivolous stuff, but for shoes and winter coats and the like.

I think it would be a bittersweet existence, punctuated by the constant need for warmth and food and drinkable water. But when the time came for me to shuffle off this abandoned mortal coil, I don’t think I’d be bitter, because there would be no one to blame. I might have a regret or two, but I think I would be relieved that I made it as far as I did, and that this particular journey was finally over.

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A Song for Those Who Come Later

If you could leave one song behind, what would it be?

I love doing thought experiments. Here’s one I made up on my drive to work today.

If we knew that the end was coming, that moment when all humanity would be gone from this planet, and you could leave one song behind for the aliens who would explore this tiny blue dot in space centuries later, one song to let them know as much as you could about who we had been, what would that song be?

For me, that’s easy. It would be In My Life by the Beatles. If you are the one person on the planet who hasn’t heard this song, you can listen to it here. And here are the lyrics:

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

It’s a simple song, really. But it goes deep into the heart of humanity. Any discerning alien could learn the following from it:

  • We could be nostalgic.

  • We also could be nomadic.

  • We struggled with change.

  • We knew how to love.

  • We cherished our friends.

  • Our lives were finite.

  • We deemed some people more worthy of love than others.

  • We had happy memories.

  • Those memories could be made bittersweet by the passage of time.

  • We liked to tell people when we felt they were special.

  • We were able to move on.

  • We appreciated the past, but we could also appreciate the present.

  • Some of us, a very lucky few, got to experience what it was like to be loved by someone more than that person had ever loved anyone else, ever.

  • The Beatles were one freakin’ amazing band.

I think that all of these things would be worth relaying to future aliens who would never have a chance to meet us in person. By the time they encountered our planet, all our buildings would have collapsed and been overgrown. Our books would have turned to dust. Our monuments would have crumbled. But these things, this stuff, was never the essence of who we were.

We were here. We loved. We thought a great deal about what truly matters. That is all.

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Thought Experiment—An Invitation to the White House

What if.

Sometimes, when bored, I like to play a little game. I call it What If. Basically, it’s a thought experiment. What would you do in various situations?

This time, after reading the recent Op-Ed about the chaos in the White House, I thought, “Oooh, Trump’s head is going to explode! I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that!”

But would I, really? What would I do if I were invited to the White House during this insane administration? It would be like entering the heart of Mordor to visit Sauron. I’m not sure I’d have the intestinal fortitude for that.

I’ve been in the presence of evil a time or two, and it has shaken me to the very core of my being. Something about looking into the eye of someone who is completely devoid of a moral compass leaves me feeling like anything could happen, and I know I wouldn’t like it.

The tension in that building must be palpable. The morale must be at rock bottom, and the paranoia must be as thick as chocolate pudding. I’d probably get an instant migraine, just like I do when I attend a wedding for a couple that I know won’t last. It’s how my body reacts to the fact that things are about to get real and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

In almost any other time in history, I’d have considered being allowed to visit the White House to be an exceptional honor, even if I hadn’t voted for its resident-in-chief. (I did take a tour of it once, and even that was exciting.) It would be a distinct privilege to be able to voice my opinion to a sitting president.

But who am I kidding? This one wouldn’t listen. It would make me sick being in the same room with him. I’d actually be afraid to be alone with him. And I wouldn’t want to lend legitimacy to this farce with my humble presence.

So I’d probably decline the invitation and say I was doing so out of protest. But it would be more out of self-preservation on a spiritual level. It doesn’t pay to speak the name of evil, let alone shake its hand.

Mordor

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Time Machines

I was sitting with a couple of friends the other day (waving at Caly and Mor) and we embarked on a flight of fancy, a sort of thought experiment about time machines. And now I can’t get it out of my head. I don’t know if this will reveal as much about the subject matter as it does about how my mind works and how I view society, but there you have it.

In most science fiction stories that I’ve read about time travel, the main concerns seem to be changing the future and/or running into yourself. I think there is a lot more to worry about than that. A whole lot more.

I sincerely believe that humanity’s main motivator is greed, so the first thing that people would do is try to figure out a way to make money from this invention. And at first it wouldn’t be very hard. Since today’s money would buy a lot more yesterday, you’d simply have to convert to the gold standard to avoid pesky questions like, “What’s a Euro?” from the people of the 1400’s, and then buy up everything in sight.

Of course, as all the gold flooded into the past, that would make the present time economy rather hard to navigate. So the next step would be making sure that you and yours were well positioned, and the best way to do that would be to give your ancestors an unfair advantage. Get them the gold, have them buy up the real estate, and when the gold runs out, then it’s time to give them modern day weapons. That would make for some scary times. If my AK47 encounters your bow and arrow, who do you think would win?

Another advantage would be in the form of increased health. If you could make sure your relatives thrive during the plague, wouldn’t you do it? And that would definitely put them in positions of power and influence.

And then, of course, there’s the ability to foretell the “future”. As in, you might not want to be in San Francisco on April 18, 1906, when the great earthquake is going to hit. But on the other hand, you could make a fortune selling tents, food and water in the aftermath.

But while predicting natural disasters would remain constant, what would change drastically is human events, as the future would be in a constant state of flux. For example, would World War II occur if a different group of people survived the black plague and produced an entirely different population?

I for one am glad that the laws of physics make it highly unlikely that we’ll overcome the concept of time, because we humans have a knack for mucking things up. I certainly wouldn’t want to be around to see the consequences.

time

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