Do you ever have one of those moments when you're in a conversation with someone and you suddenly realize something about yourself? I mean, you knew it, but hadn't articulated it or defined it until that very moment?
Through a total fluke, I was sucked into watching the television series Grey's Anatomy, which I have been following on (borrowed) DVD for the last year. I neither like nor dislike the series, and despite my overall distaste for television in general and soap operas in particular, it is a little ... engrossing. So, when my Grey's Anatomy buddy gives me the next set of discs, I do watch it, because I feel obligated, but also because, despite my (weak and ineffectual) insistence that I'm not interested, it beckons me ... kind of like chocolate cake in the refrigerator. I know it's not good for me, but I do it anyway.
Yesterday evening my GA buddy gave me Season Four. I just finished Season Three, and *SPOILER ALERT* the cliff-hanger was Meredith's younger, half-sister joining the intern program at Seattle Grace, and meeting George, who has just flunked out of the program, in the locker room, but in the previous episode, Meredith's younger sister met Meredith's boyfriend in a bar, and he (the boyfriend, played by Maine's own Patrick Dempsey :) had the opportunity, but did nothing - a fact he shared with Meredith, kind of like, "Hey, some hot chick flirted with me, and while I was momentarily distracted, I decided to be a good boy." And I'm thinking, "So, what? You want a cigar and a Hoorah cheer?"
Yeah, TMI, right? There is a point to all of this ... I swear.
So, after watching the season three finale, I googled Lexi Grey (Meredith's half-sister), and I read what happens.
I know what happens for the next two seasons.
For a lot of people that would be a deal breaker. Knowing what happens in the end would be enough for them to just not want to watch, because they know what happens, and so what's the point. Right?
But knowing the outcome doesn't diminish the story, for me, and in fact, it leaves a whole slew of unanswered questions.
I was talking with my GA buddy last night about the things I know happen in Season Four (she's already watched it), I realized that I'm not the kind of person who will refuse to watch a movie or read a book, just because I know the ending. In fact, there have been many, MANY times that I've watched a film, and then, read the book, or vice versa, because I wanted more of it. I want more of the story. I want to get to know those characters better, more in depth, and from other perspectives. In fact, there are movies and books that I will watch or read over and over, because there is often something I missed in the first watching or reading.
I know what's going to happen, but it's not the destination for me, it's the journey.
I also realized, something I've known for a long time about myself, but have only recently come to recognize, and that is that I don't really like surprises. I've never been a fan of mysteries. I like to know whodunit and then figure out why and how.
For me, the journey is about reaching a defined and known destination, and I kind of like to know where I'm going before I start so that I can make the best plan about how to get there. Unfortunately, life isn't like that. I don't know what the outcome of my day will be until I've lived it.
The problem is that I know *something* is happening in the world, and it is my feeling that at some point this something is going to significantly disrupt my life, and while I'm not eager for it to happen, at the same time, I do often wish that whatever is going to happen would just happen, so that I can react and move on. I was in the military and the hurry-up-and-wait lifestyle was very difficult for me.
To make matters worse, though, I look around me and I see people who say they know something is happening, but have yet to change their lifestyles significantly enough that when *it* does happen they won't suffer. And I know their apathy comes from the very human characteristic of not reacting to an emergency until there is an emergency to react to. It is normal behavior for people to maintain the status quo until they are forced to change.
Which is why I favor the fast crash to the long descent.
In keeping with the overall medical theme of this post (okay, I realize that Grey's Anatomy isn't really about medicine, but give me some latitude ;), my best analogy of how I feel about our future is to compare it to a terminal illness. I don't wish for death, but if I had a choice, I would rather die quickly than to suffer through a long terminal illness. Modern medicine has given us some amazing miracles that have resulted in prolonging the lives of millions of people, but if prolonging my life means being dependent on machines or medicines that often cause other problems that require further treatment, I would rather just go gentle into that good night. I would rather not drag myself and my family through a pit of hope that ends in despair when I am finally forced to give up, because the doctors have reached the end of things they can use to try to save me.
If I apply the terminal illness analogy to current events, our world is on life support. Our lifestyles are completely unsustainable, and the longer we refuse to pull the plug, the greater the damage that will be done.
In my terminal illness analogy, if, for instance, I am suffering from an aggressive form of cancer with a low life expectancy, I have the option to accept some form of experimental and radical therapy that *might* give me a few more years, or I can take the time I have left, go home and spend those days with my family. In the end, the result is the same, I will die. The question is, do I waste my time trying to get better, or do I accept the fact that I am dying and spend those last days living and enjoying what little life I have left?
If I choose the first option, the drugs and therapies used will result in damage to the rest of my body. If I choose the second option, there are parts of my body that may be salvageable, and I can donate those organs and potentially save other lives.
Our world is suffering from a terminal illness, and we are employing every experimental and radical treatment we can find to "cure" the cancer that is our modern lives, but in the process we are destroying our planet. We're hanging on to this lifestyle at the expense of our environment. We're looking for new, improved technologies so that we don't have to give up our televisions or our ARNY trucks. We're stripping the land for precious minerals and drilling in the deep oceans, and all to keep what we've got, when what we should be doing is learning to live without.
Maybe I can be accused of being eager to see it all end, but it's not because I'm sadistically hoping for the end of the world and eager to be witness to extreme hardship and suffering, but rather because I don't believe that prolonging the inevitable is a better choice. We're suffering now, and a fast crash will not make the suffering more acute than a long descent. The fast crash will just force us to accept, more quickly, what is happening anyway, and maybe preserve some of what's left of our planet so that we can pick-up the pieces and start over.