Not long ago, a friend posted a cartoon where the unspeakable horror Cthulhu arises from the sea … side-by-side with Godzilla doing the same.
“How strange 2020 is ….” Cthulhu mutters as the confused monsters try to untangle their schedules, just in time for the planet-eating Galactus of Marvel Comics to make an apologetic appearance.
“Ahem – am I early?”
No, sir. This year, you’re par for the course.
In a way, this year feels like 1989-1990 in reverse. Back then, every headline seemed to bring news that was amazing beyond belief. The Berlin Wall came down. The Soviet Union broke up. Nelson Mandela walked free. The World Wide Web took its first baby steps. Absolutely anything seemed to be possible (which made it all the more devastating when the Tiananmen Square protests in China went so terribly wrong).
Today? Well, we’re amazed all right. Or is “stunned” a better choice of words? It says something about the present day when horrific wildfires on the Western Slope are the most normal thing that’s happened all year.
No wonder a new “Bill and Ted” movie sounds so good. Who doesn’t want a time-traveling phone booth right now?
I’ve seen some people joke about living in a horror story. To be honest, they’re not far off the mark.
And that’s more hopeful than you might think.
Horror has two key qualities: uncertainty and isolation. You know something’s coming for you, but you don’t have all the information – it’s out there, ready to come at any time, just beyond sight, building the tension. And you’re facing it alone. Maybe you’re in an isolated place, or cut off by a disaster, or simply in a situation where no one else believes you, but for whatever reason, no help is coming.
Alone in the dark. It’s the core of every scary story since campfire days.
But if you change those qualities, you break the story’s power.
Uncertainty’s the harder one. We plan and strategize and arm ourselves with information, and it undoubtedly helps. But none of us have yet been gifted (cursed?) with the ability to see the future, so our extrapolations only take us so far. That’s not an excuse for not planning, of course – just an admission that reality can be even stranger than our imaginations.
The real key is in isolation.
That’s going to sound ironic in a year where social distancing can save lives. But while physical isolation is crucial to survival, mental isolation is deadly. That’s when we stop being a community and turn into a collection of despairing or self-centered individuals.
Alone, we’re overwhelmed.
Together, we can make it.
We make it by thinking of the safety of others and not just our own ability to tough it out.
We make it by reaching out to friends and neighbors and finding ways to help.
We make it by breaking down the anger and fear that drive us into a corner and reaching for a hope that can open doors.
We make it by being us. By caring. By standing behind others when they need us, and being able to trust that someone will stand behind us, too.
It’s not easy. It takes more than just misty optimism. We have to work and build, not just wait for everything to magically get better.
But if we do that – if we look to our neighbor and do what needs doing – something pretty wonderful can arise.
Maybe it’ll even be in time for Godzilla.