The news got full of twisters again last week, at approximately the same time it got to reminding us that it was just one year ago, give or take a half a month, that a tsunami battered coastal Japan. I envision daily editorial pow-wows, where the greater chieftains argue over which aging disaster will be featured, with a slideshow, on the homepage. The big boys must almost look forward to a shooting rampage, in a school or workplace, that will provide relief, with fresher photographs, from anniversary decisions. Such occurrences would seem to make decisions easier (if a little grimmer for those few less effectively vaccinated by experience), furnishing for all an earlier opportunity to flee the office and partake of smaller stories. Close to home stuff. Drinking, dating, shopping, diaper changing, Idol and the Knicks, or ( I may be stretching here), some reading.
Of course the reason headlines for the greater masses hew to the disastrous is because that’s what will sell. But why is that? I think a combination of our human needs leads to this end.
For one we need to be reminded of our own mortality. While we’ve long held to the notion that no other living species has awareness of inevitable death, even we have evolved only to the point where the idea flits across our conscious minds occasionally. The industry of providing “Every Moment is a Miracle, Don’t Waste Your Time, Run Up Your Credit Card” advice is really rather large, though in the case of credit I guess I’m not sure whether we are expected to adopt the “There may be no tomorrow” or the “There is always tomorrow” creedo. Probably both at once….just swipe it! The stories and the photos of annihilation we bombard ourselves with may be beneficial in providing some incentive to prioritize desires and strive for fulfillment in whatever time we have.
We fancy ourselves unlike the other creatures, too, in that we study self preservation. Humanity has been in the dike building business for a long time, having incrementally come to realize that reliance on some frog brain instinct, in the moment, isn’t best for individuals in every situation. We’ve bouyed the oceans with tsunami warning systems, flown a thousand satellites, and sweep the lower atmosphere with radar that we might buy just a few more minutes to enact whatever plan we keep to stay alive, should nature really rear. And who among us hasn’t pondered just exactly what might be the best course, should a lunatic start shooting up our near environment? Under the desk, or out the window? Move at the gunman, or away? Become the second person with a gun deployed, or no?
And finally, those other two possessions that so many of us value and can’t get enough of, good fortune and superiority. A photo of some concrete slabs that used to be a neighborhood is potent food for thought that we are lucky, we have prayed enough, that all our daily deeds have got us karma coming, or even that we’re smart enough, through common sense,( or possibly from watching stories on the news), to never live along the coast, down by the river, or in Kansas without underground facilities.
I find myself a little over-fixated, since 9/11, with the final moment following a fall from fatal altitude, and occasionally envision, since that night I heard so much about in Lockerbie, a great big piece of something falling on my house.