There’s a mob of existential threats knocking on our door. You’re likely already developing anxiety over some of them. Have a thing for nuclear wars? Another pandemic perhaps? Or maybe you’re more into global warming, artificial superintelligence, biohacking…
For many of us, this wave of global crises feels more like a tsunami. Our natural response is to stare wide eyed at the surging horizon, our feet cemented in the sand. It’s hard to feel anything but angst when faced with your powerlessness. Even the soothing numbing powers of Netflix and Instagram can only distract us for so long before that tightness in our chest resurfaces as we look up from our devices.
There is no blueprint, no magic treatment for our shared dread. I won’t dare attempt an answer. Rather, I propose a question. Four words to anchor our mind as it starts spinning off its axis: What do we do? A simple, almost trivial inquiry. Although asking the right question can make the world of difference. To see why, let’s consider some alternatives.
What Do I Do?
Stop asking this question. Specifically, ditch that pronoun. “I” may be the shortest word in the English language, but its slim physique betrays its heavy weight on the human psyche. It drags us down with self-pity, loneliness, and jealousy.
Individuals inevitably crumble under the immense pressure of global threats. Only communities endure through mutual support and coordinated effort. So deflate your oversized ego and think in the first person plural. Ultimately, your personal battles are shared struggles.
What Should We Do?
This question betrays the need to identify some optimal choice. That desire is nothing but another source of stress. How can you be certain that you’re on the right path? What if you’re just dead wrong? When obsessing over what you “should” do, you’re just as likely to end up doing nothing at all. Of course, some hypothetical ranking of choices does exist. But forget it. We advertise ourselves as expert marksmen when predicting the future. In reality, we’re shooting at a moving target. While blindfolded.
Great outcomes are often not the product of meticulous analysis but of someone simply having the courage to step outside the ordinary. It’s an admittedly scary admission. The good news? Even blindfolded, if 8 billion people fire a shot, someone is going to hit the target.
What Do We Do?
This brings us back to our golden question. One inquiry to rule them all… What do we do? Well, the options are infinite. We can start composting. We can double down on nuclear energy as a renewable power source. We can escape to Mars.
Still feeling anxious? Relax. A decisive “Nothing” is as good an answer as any. Take out your shades, lay down your towel, and light a cigarette while admiring the wall of water approaching the shore. It promises to be one hell of a show.