An attempt to create an Apocalyptic Narrative as Motivation

There is only one week left until the project is due.  You don’t want to do it.  You are tired of it, and you resent the fact that it is taking up so much of your time.  But it is clear that it is in your best interests to do it and to do it well.  What do you do?  Self-motivate.

There are many aspects about preparing for TEOTWAKI that make it fun.  I won’t discuss them all here, but a few are that because it is not really here, the actions become a form of play rather than work.  It is not something we have to do; it is something we choose to do.  It is not something our bosses or spouses are trying to get us to do.  We are doing it because we want to.  It is fun, but it is also productive.  Those of us who have acquired that WASP work ethic described by Max Weber feel good about being productive and feel guilty about too much pleasure that is not task/future oriented.  It makes us happy to be able to have fun and be productive at the same time.  Weber also recognized that the rationalization process that is central to making us feel this way, when socialized, tends to demystify and instrumentalize the world.  It makes us sad and neurotic.  There are multiple answers.  These include escaping to the wilderness.  This can be done permanently (Ted Kaczynski) or escaping to the literal woods often or escaping vicariously through video games, television, and social media.  The point is that we are not robots.  We are much more like our lazy cats who, as they age, do nothing but eat, nap, watch the world go by, and ask to be petted.  And there are many humans (the poorest and the children of the richest) who do little more than this.

The apocalypse is but one of many escape stories we tell ourselves.  We get to pretend it is important without really being important.  There are no real and immediate consequences.  (True believers will prophesy otherwise – but how long must we wait for Jesus and/or the Apocalypse?)  Thinking about the apocalypse, then, makes for a fun escape that also allows us to pretend we are doing something useful and meaningful.  It’s kind of like going on a mission trip or participating in disaster-spectator-service vacations – for those who see the other for what it is.

But to the point, because I don’t get paid to blog, but I do get paid to finish this project that I am putting off: can we use the apocalypse narrative to help us accomplish tasks in the real world?  Can I re-frame the work and make it fun by imagining that if I don’t get this thing done, the world will end?  Or, closer to Prepping thinking, if I don’t plan ahead, when the moment of truth comes, will I be able to save my family and self from a disaster that is World-Historical in meaning and importance?  Or, might trying to do this fail or diminish the effectiveness of the apocalyptic narrative elsewhere in my life – and leave me no other options but despair or running off to the woods?

When put this way, it seems worth the risk.  Better to burn out than fade away, yes?  But in reality, it seems to fall flat.  It seems that, though I try, cannot associate this task with apocalypse preparation.   Why?  — In part this must be due to the end of the apocalypse.  What happens after the apocalypse?  We don’t have to go to work anymore.  If we survive this one great catastrophe (and 75% of the world does not), we will be able to spend our time gardening and fishing.  We long for that one event that we can succeed at that will make the rest of the world easier.  But it is clear that a project to appease the bureaucracy is not the equivalent.  It is in fact the reason why we create the apocalypse – to free ourselves from these tasks that we know have immediate instrumental value but that in the grand scheme of things are completely pointless.  They give bureaucrats something to do.  So, I guess I need to just get to work and then garden on the weekend.


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