Existential Shenanigans

Last updated on August 1, 2022

My niece, Marla, just turned twenty-two.  I can remember kicking around in the world when I was her age. Back then, I was 80% water, 10% alcohol, and 10% p&v (piss and vinegar). I have a real blood test that proves this. I don’t miss those days in the least.

As a twenty-two-year-old, I suspect my niece is making out better than I did in some ways, but worse in others. For instance: I don’t think her and her friends are looking to get hammered on cheap beer every single chance they get. That’s for the better. Then again, she probably has easy access to a bunch of weird poisons that didn’t even exist back in my day.  That’s for the worse.

Chief among the new poisons, I’d say, is a man-made concoction that can’t be detected by any blood test. I don’t think it’s been given a street name yet, so I’m just going to call it “gunk” for the purpose of having some way to talk about it.

Gunk in a Nutshell

From what I understand, gunk is distributed widely – enough so, that I don’t think it’s a stretch to call it ubiquitous. It gets into people primarily through the eyes and ears, which means there’s no real way to protect yourself from it. Being anywhere around it means you’re getting exposed, period. In all instances of which I’m aware, it’s mixed with other airborne ingredients, so people don’t even know they’re getting dosed. It’s hard to say how someone might react if it wasn’t mixed with something else, if it came straight at people in its pure, uncut form, let’s say. I doubt that pure gunk would actually kill someone, but I’d assume it would cause some sort of permanent damage. I’m not aware of any studies on this kind of thing. Too dangerous, I guess.

Most unfortunate are the following points:

Young people are at far higher risk for gunk exposure than older folks, and they are also far more likely to express symptoms after they’ve been exposed. This has something to do with how growing brains and bodies are more susceptible, by their very nature. The symptoms are nasty, and include atrophy of the heart; confusion, cognitive decline; feelings of isolation, helplessness, and despair. Because it so often masks as depression, gunkatosis is a bitch to diagnose.

…and…

The main ingredients used to make gunk – which are, sadly, quite easy to look up on the good old interweb – are very, very expensive. At first glance, this sounds like a positive rather than a negative aspect, since it means ordinary slobs can’t cook it up in their basement like a batch of meth. However, I’m going to flag it as a negative point because it means this: The manufacture and distribution of gunk must have some serious funding behind it.

So, what is gunk, exactly? Confession: I’ve been sneaky with my language about it thus far, and this may have misled you into imagining that it’s some sort of new designer drug. It’s not. Gunk is something akin to “propaganda on steroids,” a propaganda variant so different from its predecessors that it deserves a brand-new name – hence gunk – and brand-new safeguards.

Everything I said about it up above is true.

Future Shock

I don’t think my niece is a gunk junky. She’s too happy, too upbeat. Her sense of humor is fully intact.

Get enough gunk in your system and all that would fly right out the window. However, it’s clear she’s been dosed, and it worries me a little.

Marla was hanging out at the house a couple weeks back, and I asked her, “What’s new with you and your crew?” I was genuinely curious. And feeling unusually rhymey.

She began weaving a veritable tapestry, a patchwork of recent happenings and funny anecdotes: Tales of recent road trips, karaoke hijinks, Roe versus Wade protests, apartment hunting, various coworker and employer plots, and so on. All great fun to hear about, as it was delivered pretty much like a stand-up routine. I have to say: Marla can tell the hell out of a story. I was laughing hard through most all of it.

“OK, so you know me – I have to ask…” I injected at one point, “…what’s your take on the abortion thing? The Roe versus Wade, Supreme Court thing, I mean.”

Marla got a little serious – but not too serious – and replied, “Most of my friends are kinda freakin’ out about it, I guess. Jenna and Kim, especially. I mean, they’re making big signs and going to protests and all. But I’m kinda like, ‘You’re both gay, and you never wanna gonna get knocked up anyway, so why are you out there making a big stink about this?’ – You know what I mean?! I think they’re in it mostly for the protesting. And maybe the signs. It’s like, ‘Let’s get together for craft night and drink a bunch of wine and get out the hot glue guns and glitter and stuff and make some protest signs.” She paused reflectively, and then continued. “And then Kirsty is completely on the other side of it. She has Tessa and all, and she wants to make as many babies as she can.”

“But what do you think about it,” I pressed.

“Well, it’s funny. Me and Parker were just talking about it at lunch today and we both decided ‘Who cares?’ because, I mean, we’re all gonna be dead in a few years anyway. I mean, we’re never going to make it to your age, that’s for sure. So, like, what’s the point in getting all worked up and worried about anything. Abortions, student loans, drug dealers, whatever. Like shouldn’t you just rack up whatever bills you want and subscribe to everything and just live large, ‘cause you’re never, ever gonna have to pay any of it back, am I right? Cause we’ll all be dead soon, I mean.”

“Whaddya mean? Fifty-sumthin’s not that old.”

“No, I didn’t mean that. I mean, I don’t think you’re super old. Not really.” She winked and added, “But you are! Kinda, I mean.” She started pouring herself a bowl of Raisin Bran.

“Humph,” I coughed.

“You know what I mean? Like, for anybody my age, in my friend group, we’re all like ‘We’ve got ten years, tops, on this planet before the climate crisis wipes us all out.” Marla was getting serious now, somber.

“The climate crisis?!” I asked, almost in disbelief, parking the bit about racking up mountains of debt for the moment.  “You really think Mother Earth is gong to close up shop inside a decade due to man-made climate problems? Like this is an existential crisis”

“Yep. For sure. One hundred percent. What do you mean when you say existential?”

“I mean related to the existence of the human species.”

“Oh, OK, I gotcha,” Marla said, nodding. “Why? I mean why do you ask? Don’t you know the sky is falling, Chicken Little?” And then, as an afterthought: “I love it when there’s this many raisins!”

“Well, ummm…” I started, measuring my reply. “I don’t really buy into that particular narrative, no.”

“Oh, come on now! Even conspiracy nuts like you have to give it up on this one. All the experts have weighed in on it. There’s a very real climate crisis, and we’re all pretty much screwed,” Marla put in with no small measure of assurance. She put down her spoon and looked me straight in the eye.

“By experts, you mean Al Gore types?” I couldn’t resist.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“Ummm…never mind. Bad example.” I sat there a little dumbfounded, not quite sure what to say next. Or if I should say anything at all. But I wanted to ask Marla one more little thing before letting it drop. “Listen, I’m not saying there isn’t a very real existential threat we’re all facing – I just don’t happen to think the climate thing is it. But that’s beside the point. What I’m really wondering is this: Let’s say you only had five years left on Earth before the shit hits the fan – like in the Bowie song – Would you surrender quietly to the inevitable, put on your giving-up pants? Or would you swing on through the pitch, in case things got better?”

“Who’s Bowie?”

“Sorry. Another bad example.” I really was starting to feel old now. “You dodging my question, M?”

“I guess I’d swing on through the pitch,” Marla answered, albeit slowly, birthing each word individually.

“Good girl. Tell your friends.”

 “You said before that you thought there is a real existential threat, but that it’s not climate,” Marla noted. She swirled her spoon around in the milk. There were just a few remaining, soggy flakes. No more raisins.

“Yep. I did say that. Good catch.” I got up from the kitchen table, stretched this way and that. I was imagining having my own bowl of Raisin Bran.

“So what is it? What’s the real existential threat that we should know about, but pretend not to, as we’re swing through our pitches?” Marla’s arms were crossed. She meant for me to answer.

“Robots,” I said.

This Perfect Day

I wasn’t being a smart-ass. I really am worried about robots.

But when I say “robots” I’m not talking about cute little, Japanese helper-bots like Asimo, nor am I talking about creepy little contraptions like Boston Dynamics’ cop-dogs. Although, I must admit, that both these examples are quite worrisome.

When I say “robots” what I’m really referring to is “robot thinking,” specifically what’s classified as Artificial Super-Intelligence (ASI). This is Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has learned to reprogram itself and acquire its own resources in order to sustain and grow itself. I call it robot thinking in order to knock it down a peg. It’s the best retaliation my simple, organic brain can muster.

Mad scientists all over the world have hard-ons over developing ASI, damn the consequences. All of them witches. ASI, if it is ever birthed into the world, will surely spell the end of us, and then some. What use will ASI have for human beings, after all? Alive ones, I mean. Seriously.

But hey: ASI is not the topic of this article. Although I’m sure we’ll tackle it before too long here at TPD, some way or another. The topic of this article is gunk, as well as one little chunk of gunk residue that we’ve identified: Silly doomsday thinking that’s encouraging young people to surrender any hope they might have for the future.

Phil’s Two Cents

I brought up the robots for a reason beyond rambling or TPD foreshadowing. One thing is this: I do need to call myself out a little bit. After all, here I am with my own pet existential crisis. So, you might ask: Who do I think I am shooting down someone else’s?

I understand that at first glance you may suspect that I’ve been gunked myself. But I don’t think so, I really don’t. Here’s why I poo-poo that notion: The “climate crisis” is being sold to us pretty hard, but killer robots are not.

But hey: That could be the gunk talking. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

There is some good news in all this. I think we all have natural immunities that can keep us from getting infected by gunk and developing symptoms. This is evidenced by how quickly we can “snap out of it” when we are in the physical (not virtual) presence of loving, compassionate, open-minded people.

We all have these amazing, internal compasses that always indicate True North. But they will give false readings in the presence of noise and clutter and little magnets an such – i.e., prolonged, continuous exposure to gunk.

So, what’s the answer? How do we keep our internal compasses calibrated? How do we boost our gunk immunity?

Stay clear and surround yourself with Love. Presto!

Or if you find clarity and love to be in short supply … find a friendly cat and invite it to take a 20-minute nap in your lap. You’ll be gunk free by the halfway mark, I promise.

– “Phil”

TPDcast.com

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