Apocalypse Whenever: the View From my Writing Shed

This morning I read Mick LaSalle’s article on movies that said that an apocalyptic event is the new happy ending in movies.

Looking out onto the world . . .

Looking out onto the world . . .

Hmmmm . . .

I just saw the movie Up two days ago. I laughed. I cried. I loved that it was in 3D. How cool.

And, I thought, Pixar gets it right. They understand story. And I’m so glad that they are telling these stories to children. These aren’t the cotton-candied stories that I got from Disney when I was growing up. These are stories that respect children.

The happy ending in this story is that love abides if we let go.

Such a hard lesson.

I wonder if the apocalyptic endings Mick LaSalle refers to in his movies are lessons in what happens when we don’t let go. Or, maybe, what it feels like to let go of what we think our place in the universe is.

I never thought I’d move back to Livermore. There’s the thing about moving back to your hometown, the one you couldn’t wait to escape when you were a teenager, when you thought it was the place that held you back.

Leaving a place teaches you that you carry your saboteurs with you; those lurking voices that try to convince you that you really might not be worthy of being loved.

At some point, I understood that I was comfortable with those voices. They were familiar. Letting go of them was not easy. What does it mean if I find out that I am worthy of love? What then? What do I do when I no longer have the disapproving finger pointed at me intoning, “Just who do you think you are?”

Well, I learned that who I think I am – I am. Being a writer was a big part of that. Because being a writer means that I had to learn to say what I mean. Which means I have to know what I mean.

That takes some work. A lot of rewriting to get to the nub of it.

I think moving back to my hometown, ironically, helped me get to the nub of it.

And here’s the other thing about Livermore and why I never wanted to move back here: the Labs.

Growing up here, chances are you lived next door to, shopped with, had your hair cut next to someone who worked at one of the labs or was the wife or child of someone who worked at one of the labs. My parents worked at each: my dad was an electrician – my mother an administrative assistant.

You just took it for granted that the secrets that were held there were secrets we all had to protect. Wives didn’t know what their husbands did. This was the Sixties, so there were only a few wives that worked there who held secrets from their husbands.

The secrets were about developing apocalyptic weapons.

You just took it for granted that these weapons were necessary for our survival – necessary to combat evil – an evil that existed only in “the other”—an evil we did not ourselves possess.

Our fear of the other was justified, and we possessed the knowledge of apocalyptic weapons that would protect that fear. That made us powerful.

I think that 911 taught us that we live in a rock, scissors, paper world.

But back to Livermore. I think that the institutions of Livermore, the political structure, the entrenched art community, are stuck in a world that believes that power is a force to be used for wielding over others, as opposed to a life force that defies control because it is experienced differently by every being.

My hope is that the Labs will be turned over to green technology – a technology that seems more about adaptation than dominion.

An apocalyptic event is one that ends the world as we know it. Perhaps if we can use that as a personal metaphor for letting go of what we held as sacred truth if the world can no longer support it, we will be able to see the beginning of the new world that emerges from its ashes.

It could be our happy ending. Maybe we won’t have to experience an apocalyptic event that makes our home, our planet, end as we know it.

2 thoughts on “Apocalypse Whenever: the View From my Writing Shed

  1. Karen,
    I think we as a species, owe our temporary dominion on this planet to an apocalyptic event, some 10,000 years ago. It’s like the game we used to play when we were children; “king-of-the-hill.” For now, we are on the top of the hill, and with evolutionary savvy, we’ll do everything we can to stay there, sometimes with ill results.

    I see the lab and places like it as an outcropping of this need to be king of the hill. But it’s not all bad. Many good, green, thoughtful people work there (I even know a few.)

    And there is other benefit to consider. There are a myriad of discoveries, I.P. and technologies that come from and spin off the primary focuses of the lab. The government makes these available for the taking by innovative entrepreneurs from the green and clean tech space. With luck and entrepreneurial spirit, some of these will become part of the solutions to a more responsible tomorrow.

    On a more individual level, apocalyptic events can and do shape our lives. If we are lucky, what emerges from the ashes is something more wonderful and more appreciated (because of what we went through to get there.) than the world from which we came.

    Thoughtful post!



    • Great company last night. What I would like for the lab is for a change in its mission to be about sustainability. I don’t know whether we (as a culture) are ready to take that leap, but it would really make a difference if we could.


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