Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Our Fascination with Disaster

We're being deluged (it seems an appropriate word) with TV shows regarding 2012 and our impending doom rather regularly these days.  The latest broadcasts predicting our awful fate late in that year and detailing the many horrible ways we may perish were, of course, preceded by various other programs regarding Notradamus, supervolcanos, asteriod or comet strikes, etc., which seem make up a significant part of the fare available on the Discovery, History, National Geographic and Science channels.

We have, of course, been amusing ourselves for many, many years by claiming that our end will most certainly come at various times certain, but have been disappointed so many times in the past that it's difficult to understand why we continue to do so.

What is it about us that leads us to anticipate our violent end so frequently, and with such apparent...delight?  Pleasure?  For that matter, what prompts us to find portents of our doom in ancient Sumerian or Mayan works, or the Bible, or the scribblings of a 16th century pharmacist?

We certainly are capable of being very stupid, but are we really so stupid that we can persist in this kind of delusion over so many centuries, despite the fact that we have always been wrong?  Granted, the great majority have refrained from giving away all their possessions, or drinking poisoned kool aid, in the past, but there seems always to be some group willing to accept, and anticipate, disaster without reservation.

I don't think stupidity is an adequate explanation.  Perhaps we are doomed in the sense that we are never content; we're always unsatisfied.  There always is something which makes us miserable.  Rather than accept what life brings or (worse yet) trying to resolve our problems, we hope for an end to them.  And, if we must end, why shouldn't everyone else?

1 comment:

  1. The film reviewer for National Public Radio was commenting on 2012 yesterday. He was contrasting Aristotle's plan for drama (introducing characters, developing the plot, leading up to the climax, then the resolution) with the way actual drama unfolds. In the actual drama of life the climax always comes first -- the earthquake in LA, the massive tornado in Nebraska, the breaking of the dike in New Orleans, the eruption of oil in the gulf. Then, we start meeting the characters whose lives have been upended, our discovery of a plot (so to speak) is quite belated - if it ever happens - and finally, maybe 5 years later, the resolution -- if we are lucky. Sometimes there isn't any resolution.

    So, he says, we are especially fond of disaster movies which follow Aristotle's plan: we experience disaster in a nicely organized artistic way which leaves us emotionally satisfied. Real life disasters are just disasters, and they are not artistically or emotionally satisfying (when they happen to us, anyway).