Sometimes I can’t bear the thought that some haughty prick from the future, say, two hundred years from now, would casually drop a quip perhaps during class, that 21st century people actually ate meat from murdered cows, but then loved their dogs and cats at the same time. Then this entire room filled with futuristic a-holes would laugh at the joke and everybody would be like, “Man, how could people from long ago be so barbaric and stupid?”
Hell, sometimes, I can’t bear the thought that my grandchildren would be joking about the poor, uncivilized world grandpa used to live in. How they seriously believed something like “gender” or “race” could be anything other than linguistic categories weaponized to control and oppress people. “I wonder if grandpa celebrated primitive stuff like that?” “I wonder how it would feel like to be the product of a violent, uninformed society? We’re really lucky we were born in this time.”
What I’m trying to arrive at is that sometimes I can’t bear the thought of our ephemerality; that we must accept this frustrating fact that however serious we go about our daily business, and however fiercely we believe in our convictions, and however sturdy we build our buildings, or sterilize ourselves and our environment aiming for the perfect, spotless, hygienic modern way of life, all of these will lose their significance over time; they’ll be watered down, recontextualized, seen from a different perspective–a higher understanding; they’ll be reassessed, found lacking, and replaced with fresh concepts, innovative technologies, new things that would be impossible to conceive right now. And so, no matter how intelligent you think you are, no matter how cool you fancy yourself, no matter much you think you get it–in time, you’ll be judged as wise as an ape, scratching its butt and smelling the rich aroma of shit from its fingers.
“Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman – a rope over an abyss… What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Here, I feel like Nietzsche just flat out gave up on humanity as he understood it–on his contemporaries–who are basically still us if you think of the “overman” as a type of being who won’t appear on this earth for many years to come. There are only a hundred or so years separating Nietzsche from us, and if you view this distance taking into account the hundreds of thousands of years since our species popped up on the planet, and the millions of years of hominid evolution–a hundred or so years mean diddly squat.
Nietzsche here, dead as a dodo as he may be for many years, was still describing us–you and me. How the best thing about us is that we’re not an end; that even though we’re completely shitty in his eyes, hey, it’s a good thing we won’t be here forever; in fact, we’re just a bridge, a tool for the preparation of the arrival of the Overman or Ubermensch or Superman who is basically the coolest gal or guy since Jesus (no, seriously, Nietzsche had mad respect for Christ and the Overman is the next step towards the evolution of humanity whom he saw as burdened with unnecessary, ultimately self-destructive Christian ideals).
I don’t really want to delve deep in all of that. What I’m pointing out here is that one of the greatest philosphers of all time thought that it’s really fortunate that this current sickly crop of people would eventually be replaced by something better–I don’t know, maybe a new hominid species? A species that could better appreciate the beauty of living and actually take care of each other for the sheer love of others and not because of religion? Maybe a species that has evolved larger, more complex brains that would prevent nasty stuff like war from happening? Maybe robots?
He sounded really optimistic about it all, but I’m just here thinking about how he’s so gleeful about wanting to replace us with something better, like we’re an old television set or a broken mobile phone or laptop, and I can’t help thinking that I wish I could kick his dead ass.
Here’s a haunting thought: a sea of people who all thought they were the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, and the cat’s pyjamas are all dead. Buried. Decomposed. Or dying at the exact moment you’re reading this. Only two Beatles are left. A host of folks who have dreamed so much, and achieved so much, who were loved by so many are now either forgotten or in the very last seconds of living in the memory of someone who’s also in the clutches of death in their bed.
Pondering their many hardships and countless adventures can be so romantic. Maybe the men imagined they were like Flash Gordon–a handsome, intrepid space explorer smiting evil–and the women thought themselves to be the real-life Jo from Little Women, a brave and independent lady breaking social expectations. The guys popped their collar and slicked their hair, and the girls stripped their suitors of their valuables like a Material Girl.
They were the protagonists in their own minds, as much as we think the same right now of ourselves. In many ways, they are ourselves just in a different time. And then the ink dried on their chapters, their books closed, and then the pages yellowed as new volumes were laid on top of one another. It’s an entire library of protagonists with nobody to read their exploits and heartaches.
Like I said–it can all be very romantic.
Until you imagine the future version of Twitter and somebody there reignites the discussion about how deluded people used to be.
Doubtless they saw themselves as good, decent people. But ’90s kids were still sexists and homophobes for enjoying that overrated show “FRIENDS.”
Is this our fate? Are we all destined to be fodder for some futuristic online troll and cybernetic class clown?
Some days when I’m taking long walks to work, a deep feeling of being displaced in time creeps up my leg, threatening to knock me off balance. I am walking over lands that used to be in the bottom of the ocean. This entire land mass had not been directly hit by sunshine for millions of years because here where malls and office buildings now stand was just saltwater and strange creatures of the deep now extinct.
Under my feet, deep, deep underground could be the ruins of undiscovered empires, maybe the powdered bones of a brutal chieftain who left villages overflowing with blood and decapitated bodies. People would cower to speak his name and looked up at him as if he was descended from a higher order, a demigod.
But nobody could possibly know that. That’s the very thing that’s so absurd about our ephemerality. We live such short lives that there’s no telling what stories our sneakers step on as we make our way to our dreary cubicles. There are not enough historians to chronicle what went on here, and not a lot of readers to bother to learn the past. After all, the lives of kings and knights may be interesting, but the days and nights of peasants scrounging for food could put one in a dull mood. In all likelihood, you and me, we’re taking our reasons to the grave–why we live this way and not any other.
And then thousands of years from now, what might this place be? Perhaps a barren, apocalyptic wasteland crawling with mutated rats? Or maybe a technological paradise where no physical bodies now reside, but instead free-flowing conscious data, electrical impulses that know everything but long for the old days when organic creatures could still feel each other by holding hands?
To have all these ironies in your head trying to crush you, bellowing in your ear, inviting you to walk away and do something different, anything different just to protest the fantastic absurdity of it all can be a tad jarring when you finally sit in your chair, fire up your laptop, open your email, and be greeted by a customer service ticket. Somebody’s order didn’t arrive.
We are trapped here in this time cage.
Literally. Just think how many millions of people have been killed throughout history by diseases we now treat as a chore to vaccinate ourselves against. In fact, we’ve forgotten so much about how miserable life used to be that we’ve begun to question if vaccines are really that good. Maybe they’re negatively impacting children’s brain development. We have the luxury of being ignorant. We’re lucky.
But not that lucky.
Don’t you feel cheated that if only you were born maybe two decades later, you’d surely open your eyes to a world who doesn’t know the dangers of cancer and HIV? A world where it’s very clear that gender is not black and white but indeed a spectrum, a rainbow, and every single one has the right to express whom they want to love? Hopefully by that time, the world is a more tolerant place, and the barriers that prevent us now from treating other people equally have broken down. But no–we are two decades early, and we must suffer the consequences of this chronological randomness as other people had done in the past. And make no mistake–a lot of them knew they were being cheated on by time, too. Many of them wanted to break out of their time cages, too, fly out and live in a nook of history more understanding, gentler, and with better healthcare. They all failed and so will we.
“2019. What a barbaric time to be in,” those space-dwelling, cyber-brain-enhanced jackasses would say.
If only there was a way to clap back at our future mockers.
If only we could let them hear us over the enormous divide that separates us, and give them–despite their greater knowledge and better, more nuanced sensibilities, more just societies–a big, old “FUCK YOU!”
“Fuck you. We don’t care that we’re backward, tribal apes who butchered sheep and loved our cats. We don’t care that you’re better; we were better, and the best, and the lousiest all at the same time–once upon a time. We existed, and despite all appearances that we were idiots, we actually knew what’s up. We were aware all along about the colossal shit that was going on behind the scenes. We knew.”
That would make me rest easy. It would make it fair.
Justice is when the dead could answer back.