Early Morning Morbid Musing in Response to a Post by Pauline
March 11, 2008
Pauline has her own blog. I don’t know if many of my readers read her blog. I started to post the following as a comment in her blog, but then decided to post it here. There are many strange overlaps in our histories, though we are also quite different in many ways.
As a child and young adult, I read a great deal of science fiction, though as I grew older I lost interest in it. For one thing, the science fiction I read when younger seems to be coming true. The experience comes across to me like watching a horror move and then realizing I am living in the horror movie.
My father (with whom I didn’t get along very well) apparently felt that he had psychic powers and psychic experiences. He died of a heart attack in his forties a day after we had a fight. (it was the first time I had stood up to him.) Several times during my life, mental health professionals have said to me, after hearing this story, “Don’t blame yourself for his death.”
I don’t. But I don’t feel good about the experience either.
Years after his death, one of my aunts said that at one point he had a great “mystical” experience.
He rented an apartment with a “spirit guide” (female) who guided him through a mystical experience where he went into some sort of trance and communed with the infinite or some such.
I regard this report with some skepticism and cynicism. I have my doubts that he was faithful to my mother, so I wonder if this supposed experience was an excuse to be off with another woman.
However, I do know from books around the house when I was young that both my parents were very interested in spiritual phenomena. I have a deep resistance to belief in both religious and spiritual assertions about a reality that transcends scientific knowledge.
My father was a very angry and unhappy man. I suspect both he and my mother suffered from clinical depression (an affliction I have experienced). If my father did have such a mystical experience by which he had contact with another realm of reality, I doubt that it did him much good or made him very happy, so what was the point?
When I did read science fiction, I was rather impressed by two books by Alfred Bester, one of the better science fiction writers of the time. His novel The Demolished Man is considered one of the seminal treatments of telepathy. As your post describes, we are creeping up on something that might simulate telepathy. His other most important novel, The Stars My Destination, envisioned a world where teleportation functions for personal transportation. I consider this method of transportation very unlikely to occur.
Probably the aspect of science fiction that seems to be coming true in a way that most horrifies me is genetic engineering. I know many (if not all) evangelical Christians do not believe in the theory of evolution, at least to the extent that it claims to account for the origin of humans (as derived from pre-ape ancestors) and to account for the origin of species. To be blunt, I consider the Garden of Eden a myth and the theory of evolution a much more likely explanation. The evangelical web site worldmagblog (where you and I first encountered each other in “cyberspace”–another part of science fiction coming true) seems to have a flame war about evolution vs. the Garden of Eden, etc. about once a week.
In any case, whether or not the theory of evolution is true in our history, humans have reached the point where we will start tinkering with our own genes and trying to drive our own evolution. I doubt much good will come of this mad science, though some genetic diseases will be cured. However, human beings never know when to stop.
Although I decry the coming world of science fiction, I am a person who in a small way has helped drive those changes. As you know, my family is very odd in traditional terms. My daughter has a female partner. Her partner bore a child by artificial insemination from a gay man they went to school with. The child, whose exploits I document in my blog under the moniker “Random Granddaughter” (RG for short) just celebrated her fourth birthday as a child with two moms. She knows her “sperm donor” father, who plays a role in her life much like an uncle who visits once in a while. She figured out that he is her “dad” when she was three years old.
Science fiction not only speculated on the scientific and technological changes taking place (from space travel to genetic engineering) but also the social and behavioral changes. Writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, and the “dystopian” Philip K. Dick predicted a society where family and social values would change drastically. Although I decry science fiction coming true, as the tolerant and loving grandfather to my “science fiction” style family, I am one of those people who are helping this to take place. My bad or my good…your mileage may vary, as I often say.
My final comment on science fiction is that I think the human race will destroy itself by the end of the century. We are like a small child playing in an attic full of loaded guns and it’s only a matter of time before we pull one of the triggers. In my more optimistic moments, I think humans will “merely” sink to “Mad Max” style barbarism by the end of the century. (You can see a “preview” in locations such as Sudan and Somalia.)
As I am 64 years old, and come from a family where some of the men suffer heart attacks and some of the women drift into Alzheimer’s disease, I suspect that one of those two afflictions may be the death of me. As a person who grew up in a depressed and dysfunctional family, it is hard for me to love. I probably only have enough love for my wife, my daughter, her partner, and my granddaughter.
Although I am fairly functional at the moment, and do several hours on the treadmill each week, and spend time at the gym with the Nautilus machines, and grow and eat mostly organic food, and am gradually (like you) losing some of my excessive weight, I think I am now fairly resigned and accepting that my life will probably end sooner than later. As I am pessimistic about the future of our species, and do not believe in religion or an afterlife, I am (I think) working to prepare myself for the end of my life with I hope is mellow resignation and acceptance. “Stoic” is the word that comes to mind. I am just as glad that I won’t live to see the dystopian future I am fairly certain awaits our species.
I do fear a bit for my granddaughter. I mull over leaving money in my will for her to learn martial arts (which my niece teaches) and for her to learn how to handle and use weapons and to learn to use other “survivalist” skills. I think she is going to grow up in a world that will require such skills. It amazes me that so few people realize this is likely to be our future.
My wife and daughter and her partner are not amused by my gloomy thoughts and would not appreciate discovering such a clause in my will.
In any case, I last made a will about 45 years ago, and it is totally out of date. I do need to update my will. After I finish my taxes, that is a top priority for my immediate “to do” list.
I haven’t yet decided whether to act on these morbid thoughts in regard to my will.