Sunday, September 01, 2019

The Retirement Dream and the Waking Nightmare

Assuming I remain employed for the next 15 years and climate change hasn't quite destroyed civilization yet, I plan to retire at 65. Having now seen most of Canada, here's my short list of retirement possibilities:

Vancouver Island
Prince Edward Island
St. John's (or somewhere on the Avalon peninsula)
Some little hamlet in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia

All of these places offer natural beauty, lovely people, plentiful entertainment and relaxation opportunities, better weather than the Prairies, and proximity to larger cities should the desire for metropolitan experiences ever hit.

In all honesty, though, these feel like fantasies. For some time now I've felt a sense of impending economic doom on a personal level, perhaps because I feel like I've used up all the luck I have to get to where I am now. I've often told people how incredibly fortunate I feel to have enjoyed a comfortable living for the last couple of decades, but during that time I've survived several layoffs and I can't help but feel that eventually my number will come up. Sylvia and I have planned carefully enough that we should be able to avoid homelessness, but the pace of technological change, climate change impacts, and potentially catastrophic political upheaval over the next couple of decades make the future extremely uncertain.

I'm very aware that I live a life of incredible privilege compared to 95 percent of the world, and it feels incredibly selfish to worry about our personal destiny when the fate of billions is at stake.

I wish I had more of Sylvia's confidence that everything will be okay.  But I find it hard to be consistently optimistic.

On the other hand, there's always a chance that the forces of good will triumph over the sociopaths, or that the singularity will come and solve all our problems by means unimagined. Here's hoping...

12 comments:

Jeff Shyluk said...

As long as I have known you Earl, you've been angsty. This is not a criticism, just an observation from a friend, since I am angsty too. But I have a feeling you've got ahold of that epoch-spanning angst...

Jeff Shyluk said...

X

"And this is it, the Plenipotentiary Gateway?"

"Yes Chief Ambassador W-00-D5. We constructed it to the precise specifications relayed to you by the Singularity through your genetically-encoded Interocitor."

"I still can't believe the Singularity chose me."

"Well, Chief Ambassador, if not you, then who else? You represent the brightest hope for the entirety of humankind, spread across the three thousand interplanetary colonies."

"Three thousand and twenty-two colonies, as of Anno Etsell 10,191"

"I stand suitably corrected, Chief Ambassador."

"What I mean is, here I stand on the threshold of complete and total enlightenment. For the first time, the Creator of our known Universe has chosen to contact us directly. And by us, I mean me. I can't help but think that there could have been a better way."

"Are you second-guessing The Singularity, Chief Ambassador? That would be heresy!"

"No, no, certainly not. I merely second-guess myself."

"When one looks into their destiny the same way one looks into a shaving mirror, one will do that, Chief Ambassador."

"'Knock, knock'. 'Who's there?' 'God.' 'God who?'... well I guess I'd better do what I came to do, what the species is expecting me to do. No time like the present..."

Jeff Shyluk said...

IX

"No, I don't believe this. It's too much like bad science fiction."

"Instruments don't lie, Magus Wu-Tse. We've triple checked the data set your sci-pods accumulated off the shoulder of Orion. There's no doubt. We've been actively pinged by something - someone - out past Tannhauser Gate."

"That's the farthest reach of known space. There's nothing there but stellar remnants and hydrogen fog."

"Hydrogen would not have sent such a precise signal, and one that matches your exact genetic engram, Magus Wu-Tse."

"Yes, puzzling. It seems to be some sort of plans for, what? An interdimensional portal? I feel foolish for even thinking thus, but I cannot see how it can be anything else."

"By your calculations, it would appear that we will need the full gross production of all of the Thirteen Extra-Solar Habitations, plus the co-operation of all of the Homeworlds as well just to build this... portal, you called it?"

"It will take generations. I have no idea if it can even work. So much labour, so many resources, so much time. Even my great-grandchildren won't be alive to know if it even works. Well, this plenipotentiary gateway won't build itself. Don't let yesterday take up too much of today..."

Jeff Shyluk said...

VIII

"Metzenbaum scissors."

"Metzenbaum scissors, Doctor Etsell."

"Cordrazine."

"Cordrazine, Doctor."

"Scalosian Water."

"Do you think that can help the patient?"

"It's for me, I'm really thirsty."

"Well, you've done it Doctor."

"I suppose I have. Look at that: my ancestor. I've brought him back to life by recombining his recovered DNA. It's a clone, but more than that. I really believe I've brought him back to life. He's going to be very, very surprised to wake up here on Moonlab Alpha. He will no doubt wonder at me playing at being a tin-pot god, reanimating him decades after The Deluge. Of all the test subjects, his DNA proved to be closest to mine, so I was able to fill in the gaps missing in his genetic profile with DNA of my own. The pre-catyaclysm records indicate that he never had children. Well, now he is his own descendant, if you can believe that."

"Brilliant work, Doctor."

"What have I done? Am I like some forgotten deity suddenly recalled, that I stride onto the medical stage and breathe life into this... man? And what of him? What of his life, his capacity to create and procreate, his love both lost and anew?"

"Too deep for me, Dr. Etsell. I just work here."

"Well, I'm lucky to have hired you from Delos. Without you, none of this would have been possible, I guess. Time to rouse our sleeper. Wake up Earl J. Woods, today is the first day of the rest of your life..."

Jeff Shyluk said...

VII

"'For some time now I've felt a sense of impending economic doom on a personal level, perhaps because I feel like I've used up all the luck I have to get to where I am now. I've often told people how incredibly fortunate I feel to have enjoyed a comfortable living for the last couple of decades, but during that time I've survived several layoffs and I can't help but feel that eventually my number will come up. Sylvia and I have planned carefully enough that we should be able to avoid homelessness, but the pace of technological change, climate change impacts, and potentially catastrophic political upheaval over the next couple of decades make the future extremely uncertain.

'I'm very aware that I live a life of incredible privilege compared to 95 percent of the world, and it feels incredibly selfish to worry about our personal destiny when the fate of billions is at stake.

'I wish I had more of Sylvia's confidence that everything will be okay. But I find it hard to be consistently optimistic.

'On the other hand, there's always a chance that the forces of good will triumph over the sociopaths, or that the singularity will come and solve all our problems by means unimagined. Here's hoping...'

"Gosh, that was a lot of typing. I hope I wasn't too negative. I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”

Jeff Shyluk said...

VI

"Sometimes I feel like I'm going to be driving this parts truck for the rest of my life, you know? When will it get better? I mean, I shouldn't make demands of the Universe because there are many who need help much more than I do. Driving a truck isn't so bad. But I want to see more of the world, to meet someone... special. I think I'm ready to start sharing my life. I do share in my writing on Freedom BBS, but I want some kind of deeper... communication, I guess. I don't know. I don't have words for it. I'm sending out Voyager Six and hoping it comes back... but what will it say to me? Will I be capable of recognizing it? Maybe Star Trek metaphors aren't the best way to understand women..."

"You missed the Leduc turn-off Earl."

"'To see what is right and not do it is a lack of courage.' Confucius said that."

"'To see the exit to the right and not take it means we drive to Red Deer'. I, your confused passenger, said that."

"I'll just turn off on Township 490 and we can double back that way..."

Jeff Shyluk said...

V

"Tower, this is November Whiskey Uniform Delta Zulu, with ATIS Charlie for landing."

"Copy Delta Zulu, barometric pressure two niner point six, crosswind from the north at two seven, cleared for landing right turn approach."

"Uhh, can you repeat that?"

"Delta Zulu, can you see the runway?"

"Yes, I have visual."

"Then head for that. Is this your solo checkride?"

"Yes, tower, it is. My first."

"Well, you're doing just fine, Delta Zulu. Make a thirty-degree turn starboard in thirty seconds and I can guide you to the landing threshold on vectors if you need them."

"Thanks, tower, much appreciated. All I want to do is get this bird down in one piece. Don't get me wrong, I really love flying. But I have a little lady down on the ground who wants me to come home to her. I'm thinking of setting up shop with her, maybe in northern Manitoba somewhere where there's lots of fresh air and the wilderness rolls right on up to your front door. She wants kids. I'd like a son, maybe even two."

"Sounds good, Delta Zulu. Sounds like you've got everything planned out."

"Well, I dang* well hope so (*probably a stronger word here). Still, it's easy to guide an airplane through turbulence - there's that crosswind, Tower, oof - than it is to guide my life. Hey, what do you know? I landed the danged* airplane! (*as before). Like they say, 'Today's accomplishments were yesterday's impossibilities'!"

Jeff Shyluk said...

IV

"The German phase line has shifted another ten miles south of Pointe du Hoc. His Majesty's Sixth Expeditionary Force has encountered heavy resistance and is no longer able to advance. Our Brigade has been tasked to re-inforce. We will drive in from the north and the west to cut off the enemy supply line and starve them out. Are there any questions? You there, the red-head?"

"Woods, sir. This is my first time in Europe, and same for many of the lads. Are the Germans really as tough as the radio says? "

"Pay no attention to Lord Haw-Haw and his propaganda, son. He makes the Germans sound big, but they're no bigger than any of us. Certainly no bigger than you. Did you eat my company clerk? My word, you are well-fed!"

"Mamma kept all our plated full at home sir, and I guess I developed some when I took up boxing. Wonderful sport, that. I once knocked out an Eskimo with a single blow! His brother came at me, and we went a hundred and twenty rounds bare knuckle. I daresay he eventually got the better of me, but even so, it was a close thing. Yet I can't but help think that as well-prepared as I may be to bring the fight to Jerry, not everyone has had my advantages. I guess that's why I chose to come over to the war in the first place. I need to fight for those who cannot. I just hope we win, sir. I want to know in the end if I live or id I die that it was all worth it."

"Even if you are on the right track, Woods, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

"Words to live my sir!"

Jeff Shyluk said...

III

"Sooo... there's this Galilean prophet, and he's out on the Mount, and he's well, sermonizing. Blessed are the so and so, because blah blah blah. I kind of missed that part, but I got the gist of it."

"There's room in the world for more than one philosophy, my child."

"Maybe so, Master Oots, but this Jesus fellow everyone has been talking about, well, he's got a lot of followers, and many, many likes. Also some thumbs down from the Philistines."

"The Philistines never like anybody. That's what makes them Philistines, my child. However, we must attend to out own teaching. These holy writings of the Colossal Holy Almighty One Singularity must be written out clearly on these scrolls I have provided. Eventually, we will place them in a cave near the Red Sea. That's really remote. Nobody will ever think of looking for them there. Then my vision will survive the test of time. I think. Honestly, though, do you figure we have enough scrolls? My printing tends to be rather large. And all those Commandments... If we run out of scrolls, I guess I will have to cut some of those Commandments out... 'Thou Shalt Not Ever Watch Chappie'. I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. I go out into the desert, a ray of pink light hits me in the head and now I have all these - things- running through my brain. I know I'm supposed to write them all down, but have you seen the price of payrus lately? Not to mention goat gall ink. You have to go all the way to Gomorrah to get the best goat gall ink. And you know what the Gomorrahites are like... salty. Very, very salty."

"Master, even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward."

"I should have never got you that motivational calendar for Christmas."

"Christmas hasn't been invented yet, Master."

"Get thee away from me, heretic. You know what I meant."

Jeff Shyluk said...

II

"Pharaoh has commanded that a pyramid by built, and you El-Jabari Wuuz, my finest engineer, has built it for me. And what a glorious tribute to your Pharaoh! Such gleaming marble, so many gorgeous golden inlays, jewels beyond count, and it reaches into the very clouds! Magnificent! But, tell me, most pyramids have four sides, yet the one you have built me has... five? And a half?"

"Well, my lord, I was looking at the plans, and I got to thinking by gosh that after going through all of the effort of building your pyramid, I sure didn't want it to tip over. I mean, what if there was a big gust of wind? Egypt gets a lot of wind, my lord. So, I added an extra side just to be sure, and then I thought, maybe I could use some of those marble six-bricks to make, you know, sort of a support brace."

"Oh I hate the six-bricks. They're always just too short. They never line up with the eight-bricks. Those are the best ones. The fours are good, too. But with the sixes, you need a six and then a two to make an eight. And good luck finding a two the same colour as the six."

"I had also planned to make the pyramid spin, but I couldn't find any turntable pieces. I'd give up all my slanty pieces just to get one turntable piece."

"Tell me about it! Imhotep took the last one when he got mummified with it. Now even Pharoah lacks a turntable piece!"

"I think this is the part where you tell me something motivational to get me past my angst, my lord."

"You mean to say that Pharaoh lacking of a turntable piece is not motivation enough for you, cur?! To the slave pits in chains with you!"

"Hmm, I guess that's motivational enough..."

Jeff Shyluk said...

I

"Ugh. Uggh. Urgh."

"Bhubby, no!"

"Hee hee hee!"

(Since this segment takes place before speech was invented, and also before video, I feel I must interpret events. It is a clear, nearly cloudless day here on the supercontinent of Pangaea. The brontosaurs low peacefully as they graze on the volcanic plain. A pterodactyl in the distance hoots. Caveman Urrrl has just struck Cavewoman Seelvya on the head with his club (gently) and she consents to go back to his cave as he drags her there by her hair. Yes, this is fully consensual, the violence is just play-acting for effect. These two have known each other since the dawn of time, after all. And a proud yet angsty bloodline begins.... cue the music. No. not Baby Shark, the other one...

Dahhh...
Dahhhhhhh...
DAHHHHHHHHH!!
Dee- Dahhhhhhhhhh!!
Bum bom bum bom bum bom bum! )

Earl J. Woods said...

As ever, there is more brilliance, amusement and insight in the comments than the original post. Thanks very much for this, Jeff. A good start to the day.