Ever since the world didn’t end last weekend, I have been thinking about lure of the apocalypse.
Here’s how one FamilyRadio.org follower who believed Harold Camping’s assertions that the End of Days would begin on May 21st expressed his disappointment when the Rapture didn’t happen:
”I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth.”
To me, that sums up all the world’s problems in a nutshell.
It’s so easy to ignore the real and pressing issues that face the world when you believe we’re hurtling toward inescapable doom. After all, why bother fighting evil or working to change things for the better when God could bring down Judgment Day at any moment?
Even worse, if you grow up believing that everyone on earth is going to be punished for their sins, it becomes hard not to think they deserve it. You become desensitized to the idea of the vast majority of the world suffering. In fact you begin to associate that with something good, dare I say, “rapturous”—your own personal eternal salvation.
… How could such a belief ever lead to any positive change?
Yet even as I’m horrified by the idea of so many people expecting and praying for the world to end in an instant, I can understand the allure and am not entirely immune to it myself. As a teenager, I spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out exactly what I would do if the nukes rained down and destroyed everyone in the world but me.
It’s not that I wanted it to happen. I just felt like I had to be prepared.
From elementary school to university one of my all-time favourite books was Stephen King’s The Stand. I loved post-apocalyptic tales such as The Chrysalids or A Canticle for Leibowitz, or “whoops, here comes the asteroid” stories such as Lucifer’s Hammer.
As I lay in bed at night, I would try to imagine what kind of role I would play in a world where civilization as we knew it had collapsed.
Even though I shuddered to think of the gut-punching sorrow of seeing most of my friends and family die, at the same time, there was a small part of me that bought into the appeal of the blank slate—the opportunity to start afresh in a brave new world and maybe even build a better society than the one that we had lost.
But as I’ve gotten older, apocalypse fiction has lost its appeal. When we had to read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, for example, I couldn’t get past page 100. The sparse elegance of the prose notwithstanding, I just couldn’t handle being in that head space. I could not stop myself from imagining my husband and son in the roles of the main characters—and the thought made me sick to my stomach.
Now that I’m a mom, the idea of adopting a “Hulk, smash!” attitude toward the world’s problems no longer works for me. After all, I’d like my kids to live long and happy lives in a healthy society. So from now on, instead of dwelling on all the ways we’re killing the planet and killing each other or how we’re at the whim of an indifferent universe (or a judgmental God, take your pick)—I want to spend more time focusing on solutions.
And so I was wondering if any of you have any particularly good books you could recommend that focus on exactly that: solutions.
I want to spend less time filling my head with useless garbage and more time learning about the amazing solutions people are developing right now to improve the human condition and help us live in greater harmony with the world around us.
Because I KNOW these solutions are out there… I just don’t think the spotlight gets focused on them often enough in the current “if it bleeds it leads” media environment.
So if you can recommend any great books that focus on solutions—books on permaculture, urban farming, clean energy, alternative transportation, conflict resolution, whatever you can think of—please share them in the comments.
Because who will create that brave new world if not us?