Casual Apocalyptic Talk: The New Norm
I usually do my food shopping on Monday mornings. It’s become part routine, part ritual. I head to my car and drive to the underground parking garage at the local Trader Joe’s. I sip coffee on the drive and hope it will still be warm by the time I get back to my car. I purchase enough food to get our family through the week, hoping we won’t run out of milk before it’s through.
This particular January morning was a balmy 55 degrees — I’m talking T-shirt weather in the northeast. At this time of year, you’d expect to be bundled to your neck and maybe in thermals under your jeans.
I oblige with the weather and trade my boots for sneakers and add a lightweight sweatshirt to my ensemble.
Trader Joe’s didn’t get the memo because I nearly froze as I walked through the aisles (grocery stores are always far too cold for me).
On top of the strangely warm weather, news headlines had me feeling deflated on this particular Monday. News about earthquakes, bombs, global warming, shootings; nothing positive was making its way into my periphery. I guess you could say things were looking bleak. Despite sunny, warm weather typically making people jovial, it only reiterated for me that our planet is being destroyed; I disliked this warm January day, indeed.
I went about my grocery shopping, as usual, making my way around the fruit and vegetable stands, trying to make choices that were eco-friendly while also trying to please the wide array of flavor-palates at home. I made my way around the perimeter of the store, and stood in front of a wall of bread, looking for the brioche (you haven’t had French toast if you haven’t made it on brioche). As I stood with my back to the sample counter, I overheard a woman talking to the employee about the decadent food samples being offered on this particular morning.
“Oh, this looks so good. What is it?” she asked.
“It’s our pita cracker with goat cheese and cranberry compote. It’s delicious.”
“That sounds decadent. But I am going to have it anyway!”
She said it with a chuckle. Even with my back to them, I could hear her shrug her shoulders as she continued speaking.
“I figure, hey, if the world is going to end anyway, I might as well just eat all the samples!”
They both laughed.
As I listened to this exchange, I felt a strange comfort mixed with utter defeat.
I was clearly not the only person feeling the weight of global warming that morning, or whatever it was that made her feel like it was all about to come to an end, too. This is our new norm, I guess — the casual apocalyptic talk. I continue searching for the brioche, toss it into the cart and make my way over to the checkout line.
I hear this kind of talk in the grocery store; I hear it echoed in conversations with friends; it seems like it’s become everyday banter. It’s mostly said with levity — as in, hey I am just being funny. And sure, depressing things turned humorous are entertaining; but I am hoping we can get our shit together.
Perhaps the woman eating the pita cracker was just attempting conversation. Either way, it struck me as odd that I accepted it in that moment as totally normal. But then a funny thing happened — it stuck with me. It made me picture our world without life. It would just be concrete and glass, piles of garbage. Nothing would be left except material accomplishments, which subsequently, is the same thing that would end us in my estimation (that or a gamma-ray burst, ya never know).
I don’t think it needs to be accepted as normal. I suppose I have an idealistic worldview despite intense messages showing the negative impact we as humans are having on Earth. I can individually take action and do what I can to be part of the solution. But more than that, I guess I am mostly optimistic about our ability to solve the problems on a global scale, as one collective humanity.