In the sense that a picture is worth a thousand words, this cartoon caught my immediate attention (for attribution, taken from here):


Search engines reveal quite a few treatments of the central conflict depicted here, including other versions of essentially the same cartoon. Doubtful anything I could say would add much to the body of analysis and advice already out there. Still, the image called up a whole series of memories for me rather quickly, the primary one being the (only) time I vacationed in Las Vegas about a decade ago.

The overwhelming impression Vegas left on me was that I was experiencing some weird, temporary fantasy. The outrageous architecture, suspension of regular sleep, implicit license to be someone else (or at least try to act discontinuously from one’s own character), free-flowing booze and food buffets (and drugs?), hookers propositioning dudes openly, and an unmistakable sense that just about anything could happen were some of the attributes. The profligacy of it all was overwhelming. But going in and coming away, two comforting lies were the most enduring: the possibility of winning serious money (in defiance of everything I understand about gambling and mathematical probability) and the very existence of an entire city out in the Nevada desert where there’s almost no water or food.

I admit I had fun with my traveling buddies, ate myself silly (not so much with the drink and not at all with drugs or hookers (or hookers on drugs)), and lost a little less than my budget allowed. I haven’t been back but would if the right occasion came along. The break from reality was rather enjoyable — especially from the news cycle that overwhelms us in a very different way even back then. It was a vacation, after all. However, my visit occurred pretty early on in my exploration of the various doom/collapse scenarios out there, and I had yet to accept fully evidence that industrial civilization and the human species are both in their last decades. Vegas was an enjoyable, comforting lie but not something I would wish to sustain. Nor could I, since I prefer to be rooted in reality.

Other comforting lies with hyperpalatable allure have lodged themselves in the public sphere, the primary one perhaps being climate change denial, or at least the proper timing when we have to take it seriously. I’ve wondered in the past about the wisdom of forcing the unpleasant truth on others, much like revealing the fraud of Santa Claus to children. A better comparison might be the discovery sometime in those tender years of the inevitability of death. Every parent, teacher, and cleric would automatically soothe children who had recognized death stalking them by saying something to the effect that it was nothing to worry about since it’s so far away in time. While true, that just displaces the problem of coming to grips with mortality, which is probably a good thing with children. But as one matures, accepts mortality, and indeed faces a wide range of discomfiting facts and responsibilities that characterize the human condition, one might expect that mortality must eventually be addressed. The cartoon puts the lie to that proposition rather handily. Instead, we have Transhumanism.

Here’s another picture worth a thousand words:

This image was taken from here and apparently went viral when it first circulated in Sept. 2017. This isn’t Nero fiddling while Rome burns but rather golfers putting while Oregon burns. On one level, they are enjoying the comfortable lie that what’s happening in the background doesn’t matter. On another level, they’re in no immediate danger and can’t do anything to address nature’s fury effectively, so why not go ahead and finish that round of golf? Why not fiddle away? It then becomes a matter of ethics, I suppose, and different people interpret the matter, well, differently. I can only observe that as a collective, an entire species, we’ve decided (in deed if not quite in some manifest decision having been made) that we’re safely distanced from our doom (at least until we’re not) and can fiddle and golf and live the way our societies instruct because we, too, can do nothing to change the outcome, though we’ve hastened the speed with which it will overtake us, except to fiddle and golf faster.

  1. Nicely put, I recently bought a replacement farm truck. Not quite Las Vegas. But, still….

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