Famous psychiatrist Irv Yalom’s book, Staring at the Sun, asks us to look at life’s most difficult aspects, especially our death.
While we may be aware of near-term threats like getting run over by a bus or acquiring some rare fatal disease, most people tend to view death as distant, the final stage of old age. No matter how much we hear about terrorism, we feel it’s likely to be small-scale: blow up a bus, a bar, or a bar-mitzvah. The chance of such bombs killing us is tiny.
But as weapons of mass destruction—biological, chemical, nuclear, and cyber—become more powerful, more miniaturized, and less expensive, the Apocalypse is no longer a near-zero probability event.
For example, we could simply have that much-warned about all-out nuclear war.
It needn’t even require a government. A lone-wolf disgruntled infectious disease doctor could fill a vial with the highly communicable smallpox, get on a bus at an international airline terminal’s parking lot, open his briefcase and thus shielded, open the vial for all the passengers to breathe right before they head off across the globe. By the time the 14-day incubation period yielded to disease, it would be too late to do much about it.
Or, more certain to cause The Apocalypse or something close to it, would be a team of nihilistic haters of humankind who are insiders in key infrastructure: the financial system (for example, the U.S. Treasury Dept), electrical grid, water supply, plus a maker of compact nukes and the aforementioned infectious disease doc. At an agreed-on time, they could simultaneously corrupt the software, set off nuke-toting trucks, and release the biovirus in parking-lot buses at a dozen major airports.
The chance of such an event occurring is indeed small but not zero. At minimum, the concept encourages us to do a little self-reflection. If the Apocalypse were to happen this week, how would you spend the week? If it were to occur a year from now?
For example, many people might spend more time traveling, with family, or even working more. When science and sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov was asked, “You’ve written 450 books. If you had six months to life, what would you do,”? he said, “Type faster.”
But assuming The Apocalypse won’t happen in your lifetime, are there any implications for how you should live now? Regarding your worklife? Relationships? Recreation? Use of money? What you consider important?
What might I do? If I had a year until The End, I’d work the same amount but replace some clients who weren’t improving much with writing projects that I felt could make a bigger difference. I’d spend more time alone. I’d give away all my money to individuals for whom it would make a difference—So what if it’s not tax-deductible. I’d probably try hallucinogens for the first time in my life. I’d redouble my efforts to be kind to anyone who even marginally deserve it and avoid those that don’t.
What would you do? You’re more likely to take action if you write it down.
I read this aloud on YouTube.
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