Life is short; enjoy it while it lasts
I think the world is ending, and that's OK.
I've been privileged to not have to confront death until recently. Inundated by powerful literature, world news and personal experiences, I've had to give it more thought.
Humans are drawn to death. We've always known that life must end, for nothing gold can stay. Literature, from "Hamlet" to "Frankenstein," reflects a timeless challenge in understanding life and death.
Death is an important part of traditions and religions worldwide. We ask each other to respect the dead. We tell of worlds beyond death, of heaven and hell. As we acknowledge creation, we prophesy the end time, Armageddon, judgment day.
In contemporary contexts, the same obsession is present. At the turn of the century, the Y2K problem caused social panic. Americans feared that modern life would crash as computer code failed to accommodate the date change, though in reality, this caused few major issues.
In 2012, the supposed ending of a Mayan calendar brought fears of an apocalyptic event.
Perhaps only a vocal minority believed in the Y2K problem or the 2012 phenomenon, but the massive amount of media coverage devoted to them suggests that all of us, whether believers or not, are fascinated by the prospect of such events.
Last year, there was plenty of end-times news to be worried about.
Natural disaster-wise there were devastating wildfires and a record-breaking hurricane season. The United Nations released a climate change report in October predicting global crisis by 2040. The U.S. government released its own condemning report Thanksgiving weekend.
For a while, I dismissed the danger of an end caused by climate change. It's easy for news anchors and Twitter users to be sensationalist. Furthermore, many generations have felt like they might be the last, but we still stand after hot wars, cold wars and economic depression. Maybe we're being overdramatic.
In reality, I think this might be the finale, the end of the path that literature and religion speak of.
We have committed a horrible crime against this planet, and now it's time for punishment.
For me, this impending doom doesn't matter. Life has always been short, and the means lead to the same end. I know tomorrow could be my last day as the result of an accident, or it could be a climate change-induced famine in 2040.
We often want to preserve everything. We talk about living forever. We want our favorite films to have a dozen sequels. Most of us don't see beauty in brevity. I do.
I love live theater because it's about living in the moment. It's about spontaneity. I pour my heart into something for two months of rehearsal, I do six shows, and it's over. Theater, like life, is a journey, and part of every journey is the end.
I used to think it was a shame that a wonderful meal could take a couple days to prepare, but consumed in less than an hour. Now I know there is joy in every step, and those little moments make it worthwhile, even though it doesn't last.
When you watch a good movie, do you keep thinking about how miserable you'll be when it ends? Or do your senses succumb to the experience of each moment? Things aren't beautiful because they last.
At 17, I don't know if it's wisdom or naivete talking, but I don't think the purpose of life is complicated. A fulfilling life is simply found in happiness, in seeking beautiful things, in doing what you love with the people you love. I'm disappointed that our society doesn't value this as much as it is preached.
For now, live in the moment. Laugh, cry, take lots of pictures.
In the face of death, we keep living.
Philip Chan is a senior at West Linn High School.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.