Dear Mudge, Shitty Odds

Dear Mudge,

I think we mortals spend far too much time contemplating The End.

It seems as soon as our consciousness settles in, at about thirteen or fourteen, we begin to visualize, explore and worry about our final moments and the fraction of a nano-second thereafter. Here we go again with having brains far-too-big-for-our-own-good.

Dogs don’t contemplate death. Parrots, pandas, and porcupines live for the moment and the moment only. Maybe elephants and dolphins consider their future expiration, but I doubt it.

Why us? Why are we morbidly enthralled with The End?

I don’t know. But since we’re here, talking about our collective demise, I’m gonna bore you again with more big-picture pontificating… Namely: Fermi’s Paradox and how humanity’s end, or at least its technological collapse, is preordained.

The Holocene is ending. The window for humanity’s bloom was brief and frankly anomalous in the epoch-spanning scheme of things: CO2vsTemp_Holocene

That blue squiggle up there at the right, hovering around 0C, is the Holocene—an unusually long (for us), warm period in Earth’s history. During that tiny window of geological time civilization came to be.

Whether the Holocene ends and temperatures begin to drop, or the anthropogenic CO2 humanity continues to pump into the atmosphere overrides it and we head into a new PETM (Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maxima) the Holocene is toast, in a manner of speaking. But while it lasted, the Holocene was one of a long line of fortuitous accidents benefiting—us.

There are so many serendipitous events that undergird the existence of life, first of all, and secondly, humanity and humanity’s technological position in the Universe, that, just being here is a fucking miracle. The factors that make up our “luck” are mind-blowingly extensive. Here’s my go-to mind-trick for explaining this miraculous streak of good fortune: Imagine flipping a coin 70 times and every flip lands up heads.

That’s 1 / 2^70 = 2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·
2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2 =
1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 = 1 SEXTILLION

The odds of us (technologically existing) are 1 out of 1 sextillion.

I’ll not bore you further with the source of all these coin flips, but things like: Goldilocks zone, distance from galactic center, our G2V sun, Theia/Moon, rocky planet, ice comet bombardment, 3 billion years of biological life cleansing the seas and depositing vast stores of carbon (oil/coal/nat.gas), trees, grass, livestock—are all factors from which these flips are derived.

Now that I’ve got you crying for The End…

Given all the “luck” we’ve had getting here, and it’s been a stunning chain of events, that luck can’t possibly hold. The party is most definitely coming to an end.

As we know, there are a couple of dozen excellent ways for that to happen. Will it end in an instant or a tortuous dwindling of resources; a massive calamitous extinguishing BANG! Or a crippling thwack against our infrastructure leaving ragged remnants to piddle along for millennia? Who’s to know?

But, the odds are against us. So, toot your horn, raise a glass, sing a song, love the one you’re with…

Then again, who fuckin’ cares how it all ends? None of us make it out of here alive.

Stewie the Stoic would remind us however, that…

[Addendum: The Fermi Paradox tie-in? Humanity enjoyed a string of incredible luck. Any other intelligent life, arising in the Universe, would require an equally improbable run of happy coincidences. Therefore, the question regarding the absence of life we see in the Universe (Fermi’s Paradox) can be answered by our own improbable existence. We are a most outrageous cosmic accident.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mole: Happy Endings?

AMP-bust

So this is it. The end result of six decades of protest, activism and civic engagement:

White House Rose Garden statement President Trump

Was it worth it?

Ignore that last question. It was stupid. Whether or not something is worth the effort is entirely subjective, not to mention completely impertinent to the indisputable fact that what has happened is what has happened, so why debate it retrospectively?

I hated The Stand by Stephen King.  Mind you, I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so (for those whose only exposure to this post-apocalyptic tale was the Molly Ringwald-helmed miniseries, I enjoyed it right up to the point that the film’s unofficial theme song “Don’t Fear The Reaper” stopped playing.) That’s the precise point in the story when the mass death abates and the remnants of humanity begin to organize into groups and towns and cultures again. What a perfect way to ruin an otherwise beautiful bedtime story.

The reason I hate the turn Mr. King took in his novel, of course, is that it’s probably pretty close to what would really happen as opposed to my fantasy of total human annihilation.  For better accuracy, we need to relegate the phrase “end of the world” to far off events like the death of the sun – in other words, events that would literally result in the end of the planet and all life upon it.  Covid-19 isn’t such an event, obviously, nor is chaos on the streets of America…nor is the infuriating elevation to power of America’s most idiotic vulgarian. None of these things are as portentous as we like to think (especially not as portentous as I like to think). Sadly, we aren’t doomed. Quite the contrary: when an organism with as much power to manipulate the environment as ours grows to nearly 8 billion strong, it’s going to take a lot more than civil unrest and occasionally fatal viruses to wipe it out. It would take more than global thermonuclear warfare, in fact.

Mind you, it is within the realm of possibility that our species truly is on the downturn, so to speak. In its waning days. But when an organism with as much power to manipulate the environment as ours hangs around for over 100,000 years, its eventual demise will necessarily be very gradual. What that means is you won’t be around to see it, nor will I, nor will anyone that currently inhabits the planet. All such dramatic apocalyptic prophecies are the result of laughable self-importance, a feeling that it would represent the fulfillment of some destiny and end in divine or fateful judgment. They are also very popular fictional and/or religious tropes because all of us love the drama. But how many times can we watch the same movie and still pretend to be surprised by the ending? If any of this can be said to rise to the level of drama, it’s only dramatically repetitious.

So I have had to make peace with the fact that I will never get the “happy ending” to this human drama that I had fooled myself into anticipating. Nope. The planet will keep shitting out people long after it’s flushed me and you down the commode. That’s okay. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always known this. Honestly, my former dalliances in apocalypse porn were just momentary escapes from the far more mundane truth. But now that I’ve admitted this, the jig is up, right? Today, I put down my metaphorical pen and leave it to those whose adorable optimism in the face of impossibility can still manage to make me feel nice for just a nanosecond. Not hopeful – that’s over with. Just nice.

I intend to spend the rest of my life, however long that may be, in the bleachers. I am a spectator, nothing more. Mild curiosity represents the pinnacle of emotional highs that I can experience. Since I don’t have the drive or the wherewithal to start any “new chapters” in life, I feel like someone who just sat through a 50 year long film only to find that the credits last just as long as the feature.

So here I sit, as the credits roll on and on and on.

Imagine if those astrophysicists that posit a never-ending multiverse process of creation and destruction are right?  If they are, then this isn’t even the last time this exact blog post will be written. In fact, its composition will be infinite.

Clockwork predictability underlying apparent entropy! What a colossal bore.

I’ve nothing more to say.

Adios,

‘Mudge

Dear Mole: Kickin’ It

charlie-brown-sigh-long-day

You’re too kind, Sir, but your enthusiastic promotion of my little attempt at writing a soap opera is very much appreciated.

And you are correct: Fifty is officially in the can. I don’t do sales, especially when the commodity is me. Aside from the sock puppet performance, anything more than that is officially out of my hands. Perhaps a certain current Riverdale cast member will set some wheels in motion since that show, like most shows, is presently on COVID-hiatus. And I happen to know that she happens to know the real man behind the Deadpool mask, so who knows?

Moving on. My brain has been pleasantly quiet of late. That means it hasn’t bothered itself with concerns about a next project…or a next anything, really. It’s a relaxing place to be. But if I were unprepared to play along with that theme, I probably wouldn’t have started writing this reply. To that end, here’s a little visual aid:

Curmudgeon’s Lifetime Bucket List

X          Write a soap opera

X          Write a memoir

X          Watch Breaking Bad from start to finish

X          Quit drinking

X          Quit dating

X          Get a dog

X          Move to New Mexico

__         Eat a bug

Woah! I didn’t realize I was already this far along. Gotta run — off to search for a tasty-looking bug.

 

Dear Mudge: Fait accompli

celuloidFilm

Dear Mudge,

I hear you’ve spit-balled your last scene and have stuffed that writhing mass of film into its circular can. Smick/smack, done.

Bravo. Drinks all ’round.

For those of you who might have missed the cue:ENTER-STAGE-RIGHT, the Mudge has been writing a play? A screenplay? A caricature/parody of modern life? No, no, I got this: A tribute to a bunch of 90’s child actors who starred in a television show called Fifteen. The catch being that there is one special actor (remember that post about job titles a while back?) who made it kinda big in Hollywood and to find out who that actor is you’ll have to discover it on your own: https://notesfromtheavalon.com/

‘Mudge, now that you’re done. (I’m kidding, the work is just beginning. The creative work is easy; it’s the selling work that I’ve been told is the hardest. ‘Been told as, me? Sell? Fuck no.) But, now that you’re done, and idle—and we all know what happens to idle minds and fingers—I’m wondering what’s next on your agenda?

That is, between study sessions of course.

(And donning the telltale cap of the Vermilion Vigilante whilst slashing and gnashing at my narrative offerings.)

And don’t tell me it’s too early to start spy-hopping your next project.

But, if you wanted to dwell on the existential impact of pandemics, lockdown economic malaise, the need for dog-owners to counter stay-at-home quarantine and walk their puppies, maybe that, in and of itself, provided we discuss it amongst ourselves, could be construed as “research” for your next project.

Perhaps a certain actor needs his stage-name etched in rock? Costume included?

Virally yours,
‘Mole

 

Dear Mole: No Expectations

mcguirk

Since you saw fit to draw me back into the loop of pointlessly pointed pontification, I am going to employ a more fitting approach in the composition of my reply.  This new approach involves even less effort than what was required for any of my past correspondence, as I didn’t even write a draft or formulate any ideas for this one, I just accessed your site and started typing.

I wonder what I’ll say?

There was a recent pseudo-scientific article on CNN advising people to accept their mediocrity in order to eliminate the shame and stress of striving for impossible goals.  This, of course, caught my attention right away but unfortunately, the amateur psychologist that authored it lost his nerve right at the end and added the seemingly obligatory disclaimer “…of course, one must strive to be the best they can be” and that’s when I realized that despite the compelling headline, this guy somehow missed his own point.

If it can be said that I have a goal or purpose in life, it is to master effortless mediocrity.  It isn’t a lack of self-confidence that keeps my sights low, but an actual desire to expend as little effort as possible in the maintenance of a nearly responsibility-free lifestyle.  Do you know what happens to great people when they die?  History’s great masters and geniuses?  The brilliant innovators and movers of society and culture?  They become compost, just like us.  That being said, what the hell is the point of all that expenditure of precious energy?

The slow moving creatures of the world are truly the elite on the Tree of Life.  When you remove human arrogance from the equation (which would, of course, result in a mountain of bullshit colossal enough to Fill Houston), the only measure of an organism’s “success” is its adeptness at survival.  This is why the noble sloth has an average lifespan of three decades compared to the exuberant and enthusiastic dog, which has an average lifespan of one decade.  But the mighty tortoise reigns supreme, slogging along at its sub-leisurely pace for over a century.  See a pattern here?

Regardless, humanity at large has been so conditioned in the opposite direction that my championing of the average is usually met by one of two responses: patronizing amusement or straight up anger.  The latter response is the result of someone so indoctrinated by the Cult of Effort that he or she is incapable of relaxing their standards in the naive hope of achieving “greatness”.  Thus oriented, a willful slacker like myself represents to them the most offensive and threatening kind of person alive.

Writing is something I do if/when it’s fun.  I am never going to be famous, renowned or even published and that’s not just okay with me, it’s exactly the way I like it.  I don’t create outlines or multiple drafts or any of that stuff that was invented to take all the fun out of the written word.  The reason I continue to write is no different than the reason I continue to watch three hour blocks of cartoons on Adult Swim every night while taking copious bong hits.  Sometimes it’s fun, often it’s relaxing, but what it never is is important.  As soon as something becomes important, I avoid it like the plague.

I greatly enjoyed your take on our current case of The Plague, incidentally.  Stocks plummeting is a beautiful thing.  I almost want to say that it’s an important thing, but then I’d have to go back and edit some things I already said and frankly, that doesn’t sound like any fucking fun at all.

Plague,

‘Mudge