CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - In the Long-Term We Are All Gonna Die!

By Jack Cawthon 2007
Some global warming we've been having lately, huh? I know, I know, scientists say that humans are producing long-term deadly effects on the atmosphere. But every time I hear "long-term" used, whether it's in the stock market (invest for the long-term) or elsewhere I think of the quote attributed to Lord Keynes about long-term investments: "In the long-term we are all dead."

Maybe I've lived through too many dire warnings. When I was a little boy kid on Barbecue Run in Gilmer County I became obsessed with the world coming to an end. It may have been the fire and brimstone church services, or something I heard the grownups say that we were living in the end times.

But every time the sky would darken and lightning flashed and thunder rolled I figured that this was the big one. I would pull the covers up over my head or crawl under the table in the hopes that I would be passed over when it came.

Adding to my fears was my Grandma's big old Bible. In it was a woodcut of Noah's flood. The waters were coming up and people were clinging to cliffs, some had water up to their necks and some were trying to climb the sheer rock face. The terror on their faces told it all. Then, when I learned that the next time we would be burned to a crisp, I hoped the Lord would change His mind and send the flood again, as I would rather drown anytime than fry.

That may have been the beginning of my neurotic personality. Little did I know that this would qualify me for a journalism career when I grew older. I was to pick up the other necessary ingredient, cynicism, when I served time at the huge mental institution in Morgantown and became immersed in a lifetime of illegitimate journalism. (Is there any other kind?)

My fear of the world coming to an end, at least in the manner I had imagined the Lord might do it, was replaced in grade school by the atom bomb. This was my first indication that we all might die, not by the hand of God, but by man's efforts.

We practiced drills where we would drop to the floor, get under our desks, and cover our heads with our hands. I am not sure how that would have warded off the bomb blast and radiation that followed, but that may have been our first experience with what was later to become "homeland security." Who are we to question plans for our safety developed at the higher levels of government? Remember that the next time you are asked to remove your shoes at the airport or recite your mother's maiden name to open a bank account.

Then along came Sputnik. When I heard the beep, beep of that orbiting satellite sent up by the Russians, I knew we were all doomed, and that at any time the Commies would be on our doorsteps. As I was now in government service, at least established on The Payroll, I considered myself a likely candidate to be shipped off to Siberia or shot.

I had become a full-blown neurotic by this time, and so I made upward strides as an "editor." I found that being neurotic was greatly enhanced by becoming embittered that I wasn't a writer, which, after all, as I've heard it described, an editor is nothing but a failed writer. ("I'll show you my power by redlining that stupid sentence in your dumb manuscript!") Surprisingly, I always felt much better after tearing a manuscript apart. And, for some strange reason, editors receive better pay than mere writers.

By now, I had survived a number of threats and nothing had materialized for my doom, except, perhaps, in my job description. But then came another one. The dreaded flu epidemic was coming from China, or it may have been Brazil, I can't remember, and we were all lined up for inoculations. Kindly old Gerald Ford said to do it, and who could doubt the wisdom of a good Republican. Again, it was a false alarm.

By now, you may understand why I might not be worrying greatly about global warming, especially as I write this with the thermometer in minus territory.

After all the impending doom I have survived I try to find a more positive attitude. And considering my 20 years confined to a mental institution and the caretakers who ran it, most boasting advanced degrees, making them experts in fields where their greatest undertakings were fighting for office space and grants, I am well aware that they greatly resemble the same sort of "experts" who are now warning us about the catastrophe from the warming atmosphere. I would have more faith in the system had these apostles of advanced education been able to find their cars in the parking lot, or various parts of their anatomy without the aid of a field guide.

Yes, we may be poisoning our planet by sending noxious fumes skyward. But this is long-term generally speaking, and you know what? I intend to be dead in the long term! I am reminded of ole Hank's lament in song many years ago: "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive." And he didn't. He went at the age of 26 in the backseat of a Cadillac, unfortunately by himself.

So, I've finally reached that blissful state of full-blown neuroticism and cynicism, which would have combined to make me a great name in journalism if only I had learned to write instead of spending my time on those dumb manuscripts written by "experts" who didn't know their commas from a coma. I guess you might say that I've already suffered long-term.