It sideswiped me as I was watching the movie “Blade Runner” the other day: We, as human types, tend to either fantastically overestimate ourselves or woefully underestimate ourselves. We don’t have what you would call a crystalline view of just who we are. Or maybe we do, and we simply don’t like what we see. So we embellish a bit.
Let me splain, Lucy. If you recall the premise of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film noir, Harrison Ford was a Los Angeles cop in the year 2019, tasked with tracking down rebellious human replicants who had escaped the offworld colonies and were terrorizing people, spraying graffiti everywhere, and generally wreaking futuristic havoc. LA was a rainy, crowded, grimy mess, but we did have nifty gravity-defying Jetson cars, all sorts of cool robot toys, and apparently four-bedroom villas on the moon. And Darryl Hannah had great legs. For a replicant.
Kids, 2019 is only about seven years down the road (assuming the Mayans simply ran out of writing utensils and 2012 is not the ultimate calendar), and I really don’t see a gravity-defying Honda Civic hovering over my driveway anytime soon. Interesting, isn’t it, how badly we miss the mark when conjuring the future? We either envision that we’ve made such tremendous advances that we have a Wal-Mart on Neptune in a few decades or we’ve somehow erased ourselves from the cosmos entirely with (pick your poison) nuclear war, mutant avian flu, ozone layer neglect, overpopulation, underpopulation, zombie attack, alien invasion, bedbug pandemic, or End of Days Wrath incurred from The Big Guy.
The one thing many religious texts and Hollywood have in common is the opinion that we’re not quite measuring up to The Head Honcho’s standards, if ya know what I mean. Personally, I think we’re being a little hard on ourselves, but that’s just me.
Let me give you some more examples. The Twilight Zone episode “The Long Morrow,” which aired in 1964, presented the dilemma of an astronaut in 1987 who was deliberating on whether he should be placed in suspended animation for his 40-year voyage to a star system 141 light years away. In reality, do you remember where we were technology-wise, as a civilization, in 1987?
The only significant events I could dredge up from that year were the invention of the disposable contact lens, the launching of the Fox network on primetime television (oh, joy), and the world land speed record set by a diesel-powered locomotive at a mind-boggling 147 miles per hour. Oh, I almost forgot, “The Simpsons” debuted that year as a short film on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” And there was much rejoicing.
On the flip side of this—again using Mr. Serling’s master work for reference—the Zone episode entitled “The Old Man in the Cave,” which aired in 1963, gave us a post-apocalyptic view of an American wasteland, burned to dust after a nuclear holocaust that occurred in 1974. Everyone was going hungry; even the canned goods were irradiated. Then James Coburn came along and told them all it was okay to eat the food. No!!! Don’t do it!! Anyway, let’s compare to the reality. My research shows that there was a soccer stampede in Cairo in 1974 that killed 49 people, but I wouldn’t term that an apocalypse. A Hungarian guy invented the Rubik’s Cube that year, which is pretty horrible (you’ll concur if you’ve ever tried to solve one of these devils), but still, this doesn’t stack up to nuclear holocaust.
What I’m getting at, people, is that we’re all just regular guys, doing regular stuff, putting the cat out, brushing our teeth, going to bed, and doing it all over again the next day. And we will go on like this, our lives a gradual bell curve of existence, until the one that left us here returns for us at last. (Tip o’ the hat to The Youngbloods.)
Sorry, Rod. Our apologies, Mr. Wells. Condolences, Ridley. We’re not sinking foundations into the soil of Venus for residential development and neighborhood Starbucks franchises in the near future; but then again, we haven’t allowed our nasty little cockroach cousins to take over Wall Street by extinguishing ourselves, either. Maybe I should rephrase that. Anyway, we’re just muddling along, still waiting for the green left-turn arrow, still raising chickens for food, still tunneling into our planet for energy and treasure. Guess it is a tad boring, going by yesterday’s prognosticators.
Perhaps 50 years from now, when future types look back on us from the helms of their intergalactic starships, they’ll laugh at how silly we were. Then again, laughter may have been abolished by then. Who knows? (Insert Twilight Zone theme music here.)
Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.
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