I think a lot about what the future might be like. In fact, during the 2008 NaNoWriMo, my novel was about a life in the post-cheap energy world. There are no longer "town amenities." There are towns, and there are people, but traveling hither and yon along that ribbon of a highway is just a song and no longer a reality. The characters live simply, stay home most of the time, and just do.
The characters in my book live the way many of us in the "doomer" community say we wish to live. They've developed low energy ways to deal with most daily tasks, but they've also been able to salvage some "techie" solutions so that tiny vestiges of "modern" conveniences are retained. There is no longer grid power, at least where the charachters live, but small-scale alternative energy systems provide a small amount of electricity for personal, residential use.
Over the past few years, I've seen many visions of our future - most are hopeful, in that mankind survives, just with less energy with which to make big messes of things.
Some are not so hopeful, though, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road is one of the more pessimistic accounts I've read.
The book is just sad ... and hopeless, and for the few days I spent reading it, I didn't sleep well. Books have that affect on me, though, especially books that depict a particularly bleak future.
I kept talking about how troubling it was, and Deus Ex Machina kept telling me to stop reading it, but I couldn't. It was like a particularly horrible train wreck. We can't not look.
But I kept thinking while I was reading it, if that's what we have to look forward to, there really isn't much point. All of my plans and preparations, my garden .... There wouldn't be a garden, there wouldn't be a homestead, and I couldn't possibly store enough food to last the rest of our lives, because that's what it would take. And if I did store enough food for the five of us to survive for the next seventy years, McCarthy points out that even that wouldn't be enough, because more likely than not, someone would come along and try to take it.
And even if there was enough food and supplies for my family of five, and we were able to fend of the maurading hordes ... what then? What of community? I mean, I love my life here with my husband and our three girls, and I could happily not speak to another person for days, but at some point they will need someone other than the two of us, they will need something we can not give them, a companionship the parent/child relationship can not satisfy, and if we trust no one and simply fight to keep what's ours ours and live in fear of losing, what's the point of living? What are we living for?
And that's the question. What are we living for?
McCarthy doesn't answer that question, exactly, but even as bleak and hopeless as the novel is throughout, I was left at the end with a strong sense of hope, which was a little disconcerting.
But now that I've finished reading it, I hope that I can sleep tonight. McCarthy's book has been made into a movie, and I'm thinking I don't really want to see it. The book was probably enough.
This book is not recommended for light summer reading at the beach ... or for a quick bedtime story.
In fact, if you do choose to read it, do so in the light of day, and after the sun goes down, reach for the Kunstler novel instead. It's infinitely more cheerful.