Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why We Want the World To End by Aspen Bassett

photo by Matt Johnson via Creative Commons

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here). Enjoy!}

In my lifetime, I’ve seen countless videos, news reports, TV shows, and movies critiquing what’s wrong in our world. I’ve read blogs, books, newspapers, and Sunday comics blaming others or even ourselves for things that haven’t even happened yet. Or for things that can’t be proven. I’m twenty three years old and I’ve been told the world is going to end within the year so many times it’s become a joke. Heck, my family hosted a party for the apocalypse in 2012. Obviously, we were stood up. I would say thankfully but I know too many people who don’t agree. The world can’t get better, they say, just get it over with already.

Why do we want the world to end? Because it’s bad? Because corruption has leaked into every home? No. Because we’ve stopped loving each other. The world is in a depression and I don’t just mean financially. Let’s look at all the signs of chronic depression shall we?

According to, a non-profit guide to mental health and well-being, there are around six possible tells to see if a person is going through chronic depression and every single one of them applies to us as a nation, possibly as a world.

1. “You can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult."

There are eleven screens in my family’s living room alone on an average day. There are four of us in the house. Everyone I know owns a smart phone and has it within arm’s reach at all times. Is it for emergencies? Yes. But not the 911 calls we all pretend it’s for. These screens save us, distract us from the national scale depression. We don’t want to think about the world or how hard it would be to make a difference. We don’t want to drown in to-do lists and the must-dos of life which our ancestors had to face head on. Scientists actually have a name for it. Screen Addiction. It’s today’s drug of choice and it’s completely FDA approved. Why deal with life when you can just turn on the TV and skim through Pinterest? Seriously, I’m asking as an addict. But I know there are other addictions out there too. Alcohol, drugs, coffee, pills, oh how the list goes on. They’re Band-Aids for a problem much bigger than the highest dose of your preferred poison. Because life is hard and most people I’ve met are aware that it shouldn’t be that hard. It’s just a job. It’s just a family reunion. It’s just a date. So why is everything so difficult to us?

2. “You feel hopeless or helpless.”

Not feeling in control of your life is the root cause of stress. Superheroes are really big in our literary world right now. Why do you think that is? Personally, I think there’s a lot of reasons but the biggest one is that superheroes have control. They insist on it. They stand on rooftops with bloodied knees and say “I have hope and I can help.” That’s nice to see after a long day of “I can’t do this” and “where would I even start?” Sometimes it’s not about going to the theater and watching a cute boy in tights defeat the bad guy with his puppy dog eyes. It’s about having something to believe in, something to remind us as a country, no as a world, that people can make a difference. Maybe you identify with the caped ones and wish “if only I had the power to help those around me.” Or maybe, at times much like myself, you identify with the ones on the ground looking up with soot on their cheeks and fear in their eyes because they need an extra hand. Perhaps, in a way, we as a nation crave superheroes because we want that look of hope back in our mirrors. We want to remember what it’s like to believe in something strong enough to hold our fears and sadness.

3. “You can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try.”

Have you ever been on Facebook and it seems like every post is a negative commentary on some random thing that happened? And then everyone gets in this argument about whether or not it was really negative, if they had a point, or if they just need to shut up and stop listening to sad music all the time? And you’re innocently scrolling down the website thinking “90% of you would never have said that in person.” Or maybe you watch this awesome YouTube video about some gifted singer and then you scroll down and everyone’s bashing her because her teeth weren’t straight? I know so many people who are good but when they get on the Internet, they almost all change personalities. Take me for example. I have to watch myself when I’m online because there’s no repercussions if I written-ly attack the people I don’t agree with. But it’s not just the negative comments on twitter or whatever else is out there that depressed people have a hard time controlling. It’s the thoughts inside one’s mind. Can you think of anything or anyone that, as soon as the idea crosses your mind, you’re bitter? That’s it, you think, it’s people like that that’s why the world is ending. I personally don’t know anyone who can confidently say “There’s no soul I can’t love.” Remember, tolerate and love are two very different words.

4. “You have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating.”

Yay! That’s an easy one for America! In the top three of the most obese countries. Last I checked anyway but that was before we made such a fuss about twinkies. Deepak Chopra wrote a book called What Are You Hungry For which talks about why we can’t control our cravings. Why I prefer to over eat rather than stop when I feel comfortable or deal with the things I have to do after lunch. At least, that’s what I think it’s about. I’m too busy eating fries and Pinteresting to actually read it. The hit TV show Supernatural had a seasonal villain who manipulated our food in order to turn us into the perfect herd. I personally don’t think they were too far off from the truth. But the sad fact stands that all the food manipulation and corruption is out there in the open. People know. They just don’t care. Some food industries take out the nutrients in their products so our bodies will insist we eat more in order to get the required amount. This is a fact yet I still buy their products.

5. “You are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual.”

Is it just me or are we in a lot of wars right now? And I’m not just talking overseas. I’m talking right here at home. In the schools and movie theaters and everywhere else that people shoot or attack or go crazy. People yell and scream at each other and maybe you don’t see it all the time but it’s there and it’s in your town. I know, there are times when I tell myself I can be patient, I can shrug it off because it’s not a big deal and logically I know it’s nothing worth making a fuss over but something inside me feels like the camel’s back the moment it snaps. Suddenly, I’m struggling to control my voice, my tears are already on high, and we’re bashing pet peeves like gladiators to the death.

Then there’s the last but certainly not the least tell of chronic depression. The big ol’ number six.

6. “You have thoughts that life is not worth living (seek help immediately if this is the case.)”

 Okay, maybe the big literary wave of post-apocalyptic literature isn’t a subconscious plea for the end of the world. Maybe there aren’t people out there warning us that if we don’t change our ways, the sun will eat us up. But would you turn your head if your friend had suicidal thoughts? Are we not, as a nation and possibly a world, crying out for help? Do we not fear that our future holds only sun burns and empty wells, too many people and not enough bees? The world could end. That I believe. But if it does it will be by its own hand.

If a person has suicidal thoughts, they’re encouraged to reach out for help both to those who love them and a professional. If a world is feeling suicidal, to whom can it turn? Who loves the world unconditionally?

And that, my friend, is the clincher. Because the world is a combination of every single being within it. Every soul, body, and mistake. Yet we are plagued with racism, sexism and so many other kinds of -isms that people just started hyphenating them. The problem isn’t racism because we’re all one race. It’s not sexism because it’s not just one gender’s problem. It’s all conditional-ism because it’s about people who refuse to love until certain conditions have been met. It’s about seeing the world as one being that hates itself, can’t see any point to go on, and doesn’t have anyone to turn to for help. It’s about seeing the people around us as parts of the same being, who need hope and can give it back.

I love the parenthesis in the last sign of depression. “Seek help immediately if this is the case.” I do believe the world is seeking help. It’s going inward. It’s asking us. Alone, we cannot do it. Together, it could be as easy as breathing. I guess there’s only one way to know for sure. Love the people around you and allow yourself to become aware of any changes. Does your personal world become healthier? Like an organ regaining strength? It did to me. Either way, thank you for reading, and I love you.

Aspen Bassett is a writer who works as a librarian on her spare time. She's been published in multiple anthologies including Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way, Inaccurate Realities: Time Travel, and Inaccurate Realities: Superpowers. Follow her on her website to see how to turn your life into a hero's quest.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King