In the thirty-second chapter of The Science of Discworld, EVERYTHING IS TRYING TO KILL US. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For general talk of anxiety.
It certainly hasn’t helped that Hollywood loves churning out films about disasters because little anxious boy CAN’T WATCH THOSE MOVIES. I distinctly remember that odd period in the 90s and early 00s where there seemed to be one of them a year. I don’t believe I’ve actually seen Deep Impact, Armageddon, or those Roland Emmerich disaster films all the way through. (The one exception being Independence Day; it seems I can handle the destruction of Earth if its because of aliens.) As absurd as they are, as scientifically inaccurate as the writing is, there’s still something deeply unsettling about what they represent to me: an element of random chance that could wipe all of us out. (Hey, there’s that theme of chance again!)
What can I blame that on? Maybe it’s my general anxiety over things out of my own control, and lord, that’s an entire essay that I could drop on y’all, but I WILL SAVE THAT FOR ANOTHER DAY. Perhaps there’s a more digestible source, though: my early obsession with horror, science fiction, and the weird. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, the only truly secular stuff I was allowed to consume was The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anthologies, all of which are DEFINITELY NOT GOOD FOR YOUNG CHRISTIAN CHILDREN but I am not complaining. (There were a few Jane Austen novels thrown in there, and I can’t imagine a better explanation of my aesthetic: horror and romance. I WANT TERRIFYING but also fluff.) And all of these things gave me a glimpse of world-ending nightmares. On The X-Files, it was the ongoing mythology of the show’s alien invasion that terrified me on a primal level. Plus, it was paired with a strong anti-authoritarian stance; the government knew the fate of our world, and all they did was guarantee their own safety from the coming doom.
The Twilight Zone either twisted our world to show us an alternative version of it, or it raised a mirror to our own ills, which led me to worry that we would be the source of our own demise. And don’t even get me started on just how terrifying I found those Scary Stories books, in which little individual worlds all went to hell. (Oooooh, there’s an essay topic in that. LATER.) Maybe I really do need to sit down with a therapist and figure out all this shit, but the point is: the world ending has been a significant source of anxiety for me. This chapter didn’t make me as nervous as I thought it would once I realized what it was about, though. It helps that it’s about past instances, and that’s why I also had this urge to go visit Sudbury or the Manicouagan Reserve. (ROADTRIP.) I want to go somewhere to see a meteor shower. I want to see the Northern Lights at some point, too.
And perhaps – if you’ll allow me to get real personal once again about SCIENCE – I just want to face these things that I don’t fully understand or which frighten me. It’s why rollercoasters thrill me and satisfy me so much. It’s why I adore horror films. As anxious as I am as a person, I am constantly chasing that high, that border between life and death. There’s something magical about it, and thus, I want to stand at the edge of a crater. I want to look upon something that probably wiped out countless organisms, and I want to think about the sheer luck that’s allowed me to survive to this very moment. There is a beauty in that, given how many things can take out any one of us. I want to gaze upon a terrible fate and appreciate my own.
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