They say that people never die wishing they had worked more.
But I’m pretty sure that if I died now, that would be my one big regret. I fully expect to die someday wishing I’d worked more.
Not at my job, necessarily, but at writing, participating in events, talking to people, making connections. Perhaps even if I worked harder at my paying job, earned more money, earned promotions, that would have contributed something to my life’s goal.
My life’s goal is to make my way into a position where I have the influence to help fix the greatest problems in the world.
Everything has always been about the future for me. And it’s the same for most people, even those who say otherwise. If you say “I’m going to try to live in the present, because that will make me happier,” even that is a form of planning for the future.
After all, it’s natural for any living creature to be focused on the future, whether it’s long-term or just a couple seconds from now. The future is the only thing that our actions can affect, so logically it’s the only thing worth worrying about.
If there comes a time when I realize my body has no future, then I will become fixated on the future of what I leave behind: the traces of my personality that are preserved in writing and art, and in other people’s memories. When I write and speak and otherwise put my thoughts out in the world, I consider it a way of making a personality backup.
I fear death, but much more, I fear being forgotten. My greatest nightmare is that I die and then, some time later, the human species manages to kill itself off completely, and so there’s never anyone to remember me. Unless aliens find Earth in the next several billion years, or a new species evolves with intelligence enough like ours that they could have some comprehension of the things we created, we would all be lost forever.
Of course, if I’m dead and there’s no afterlife, I will have no way of knowing or caring whether this happens or not… and if there is an afterlife, then I don’t have to worry that my identity, or anyone else’s, will be lost. But my living self persists in caring about it. My living self knows that my dead self won’t care, but still pours boundless energy into doing everything possible to prevent that one terrible future that my dead self won’t mind.
Yes, it is illogical, but it’s based on fundamental biological drives. You can’t suffer when you’re dead, but every species of life still tries its hardest to avoid death. If they didn’t have that instinct, they wouldn’t have lasted this long.
Of course, there are times when I think that even if I saved all of humanity from the Earth’s destruction, it would still be pointless, because the universe won’t last forever.
Then I try to console myself with the thought that time is just another dimension, and if we all die and all the stars go out, that doesn’t destroy everything we did– it’s all safely locked away in the past.
But even so, I can’t help that I want my own part of that past to be as big as possible. And that means trying my hardest to keep humanity alive as long as possible.
I can think of hundreds of things that could help avoid the wordwide death that I fear. Certainly not a guarantee of preventing it, but a little chance, which is always infinitely better than nothing. (Infinitely in the sense of ratio, rather than the additive sense. One chance in a million is only one chance more than no chance, but it’s an infinite number of times as much as no chance. That is, if dividing by zero always makes infinity. I admit I do math unconventionally, but I kind of think it does.)
Our sun’s aging and death will eventually make life impossible anywhere in the solar system. Before that, there are plenty of things that could happen to our individual planet: nuclear war, global climate change, supervolcanoes erupting, solar flares or asteroids hitting us.
Of course our species would be likelier to survive if we lived on more than one planet. But we’re very, very far from technology that could take us to planets outside our solar system. And the planets in our solar system won’t necessarily last longer than Earth, and as things stand now, even traveling to Mars would expose humans to a lot of dangerous radiation.
Clearly we have to come up with ways to make space travel truly safe, and that may take a long while. In the meantime we have to make life safer on Earth– not just to buy us time until we get all our eggs in more than one basket, but also because Earth is going to be one of our baskets for a long time to come.
I imagine that the best way to give humanity a chance at survival is to build lots of secure underground bunkers, all over the world, each big enough for a city of humans to live in it. I imagine them having solar, wind and geothermal energy sources, growing their own food and recycling their own waste. If built well, a lot of them could survive natural disasters that would otherwise wipe out whole cities… maybe even some solar flares or asteroid impacts that could disrupt the atmosphere to the point of uninhabitability.
This is a lot more within our grasp than building colonies on other planets. It would keep us alive on Earth long enough to develop our technology to the planet-colonizing stage, even if terrible things happen to Earth’s surface in that time. And it would also serve as practice to prepare us for colony life.
In my worst times of anxiety, it freaks me out that the world is not working harder on this. But I don’t have nearly enough infuence to change that. I desperately want to be famous and powerful enough that I could convince the world to be interested in such a project, but I can’t even try to sell my handmade jewelry to a stranger without panicking.
To become influential, I’d have to work painfully hard, for hours every day, on overcoming my conflict-phobia and making constant, vigorous effort to spread my views and ideas to others.
This is utterly alien to who I am, but I’m going to keep trying. I may be unique, but I don’t want to be the first person to die wishing she’d worked more.