Monday, September 18, 2006

How to Live When the World Falls Apart

This is the last in a series of three posts from the months surrounding 9/11 five years ago. I wrote it in a gridbook after Thanksgiving. Every year for the last 5 years a group of my friends has met to celebrate that holiday together. The first Thanksgiving was in a secluded cabin in the mountains:

It was the day after Thanksgiving. We were all together beside a waterfall in West Virginia. The sky was gray and overcast. We were close enough that we could feel the thundering of the water beneath us. I was talking to Scharlie and Chris. We had been talking about living in community. I was telling them about the old electrical plant beside the river in Georgia. I telling them about the group of people I had known who were planning for Y2K and had considered buying the abandoned plant. “It was such a strong building in a secluded place; they thought it would be a good place to go if the world falls apart.”

Chris never moved except for stroking his beard with his long, thin fingers. His eyes never left the torrents beneath us. He said, “Everyone keeps looking for the world to fall apart. What no one seems to realize is that it already has.”

I thought about the recent death of David, about the bombing in New York and the war in Afghanistan, about the obnoxiously sentimental advertisements for Christmas shopping, about my love Joya and my hope for a life with her, about my beloved new niece Hadley who would grow up in front of a television, about my parents who had done nothing but fight recently, about that Thanksgiving in a tiny cabin with friends who I loved. I watched John and Brian jump from rock to rock over the roaring falls, calculating where I would have to jump into the water beneath me to save them if they slipped, wondering if it was possible to survive in those freezing rapids under the best circumstances. I was sure Chris was right. The world has fallen apart and no amount of hopefulness or flag-waving can undo what has already gone too far.

So what should one do when he lives in the waning of a great civilization? I am studying medicine. I hope to marry Joy someday. I hope to be a doctor for the poor in some rural town. I think I need to write –exactly what I should be writing I’m not sure. I need to pray and read the scriptures more. I need to eat less and get my large body more physical exertion. I need to visit my family more, before Joel and Emily’s daughter grows up. I need to tell my friends that I love them. I need to somehow keep myself from quitting medical school. I am growing old. I feel older than I really am. I think about all these things and wonder… Is this the right way to live at the end of the world? I don’t have the answers. I don’t even think I am up to the few tasks I have given myself.

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