PRATIE PLACE

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Certain Doom Averted Again (Joel Achenbach)

This lifted my spirits!

Certain Doom Averted Again
By Joel Achenbach

Yesterday morning I looked outside my motel window and saw only darkness. The sun should have been up. I checked the clock. Dang near 6:30. I track these things. The sun is supposed to be up by 6:30 in August. If the sun didn't come up ... well, that would have dire repercussions that prior to my coffee my mind couldn't even begin to comprehend.

(Though I knew, instinctively, that it would somehow be Cheney's fault.)

We take many things for granted, such as the sun coming up, and then later having the decency to go down again. We need the sun to achieve thermonuclear fusion and do the various things it does in the category of making sunshine. No sunshine, no photosynthesis. No photosynthesis, no food chain. I pictured the panicked rush on the motel's breakfast buffet. "Let go of that muffin!" "That's MY cinnamon roll." Chaos, madness, people being extremely impolite. Doomsday, in a word.

I went downstairs, checked my email on the motel computer, checked the blog, then went outside. Uh-oh. Still dark. Weirdly dark. They say it's darkest before the dawn, but this was after dawn, by my calculation. When it's darkest after the dawn you're having a very bad day.

I went back in and looked at the clerk behind the registration desk and the lone traveler at the breakfast buffet and neither seemed as alarmed as people would presumably be if the sun had been destroyed. But right there's the problem with our society: You can't count on people anymore to be accurate barometers of anything. There's so much ignorance, apathy, complacency. People have pampered themselves to the point of disempowerment. They don't rage against the dying of the light. I remember an era when, if the sun didn't rise, people would take immediate action. Lock and load. Kick some butt.

I noticed that the motel had the weather channel showing. They were talking about hurricanes. I found this reassuring, because if the sun were to explode or disappear, the Weather Channel would be all over it. This was not "proof" that the sun still existed, but it was highly suggestive. That's how we go through life: analyzing probabilities and going with the odds, except where strategic denial and wilfull lunacy are more entertaining.

And then you know what happened. It came on faintly at first, diffuse, filtered, soft and gentle and almost pulverized from all the scattering on its journey over the horizon. Some would call it dawn, I would call it civil twilight. Then someone turned the dial a wee bit and it was a brand new day -- hope restored, the world full of promise.

I felt proud of myself that at no point had I panicked.


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