carrie fisher, erlend loe, game of thrones and the end of the world

For awhile now I’ve held the belief that the human race is on the decline. This belief has been reinforced by many small clues that we, as a species, are ceasing to grow in intelligence and physical strength and are, in fact, becoming weaker as we dumb down. This decline may prove to be our downfall, because while many will believe that our physical strength is actually improving it is but a trick to fool us into thinking we are safe. After all, the American bison is a big, strong animal but its physical strength could not save it from being rendered almost extinct by self-serving humans with neither insight nor foresight, and was saved only by the most intelligent members of our species.

One example of our decline was made clear when I first heard a line spoken by Carrie Fisher in a 1980s film whose name I’ve forgotten (it could have been ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’) but it was a gem:

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

That line illustrates the extremes of self-indulgent behaviour and the death of the human quality of patience. The attitude has been reinforced by the electronic culture we are living in, with the invention of distracting electronic devices such as cellphones, tablets, smartphones, etc. This attitude cannot be a good thing and for me does not bode well for the future of the human race.

How many people today still have the gift of patience? How many are willing to wait for something they want? Not many, when the world is full of easy credit, legal money lenders and online streaming of hit TV shows that are not yet scheduled to be shown but have been stolen and released to a slavering public whose only human quality is impatience?

Yes, I am referring to the leaked episodes of Game of Thrones that were streamed publicly at the beginning of Season Five. Since I still retain a touch of patience I am not going to watch these episodes ahead of time. I’d rather wait and see them along with the general public when I can watch them on a large high definition TV screen. See, even I am not without my treasured electronic devices. I am part of the human race too and I know I am in decline.

While I enjoy visiting the websites related to Game of Thrones and reading all the fans’ comments I am shocked by how many actually prefer the TV series to the books. Most of the reasons given seem to be that George R.R. Martin writes “too much detail” in his descriptions and storytelling. Personally, I love the detail, especially because I know I am going to have to wait a very long time until he finishes writing the series of books the TV show is based on, so I might as well have a lot to read, again and again and again. And these books stand up to many a re-read because there is so much information contained within them that a lot of stuff is missed no matter how many times one reads each book.

In contrast to the patient book reader, the TV show viewers who are not interested in reading the books want what they want when they want it (or even before that) and have no patience for long exposition and lots of detail. I think the TV show and its producers have done a pretty good job but for me the thrills come more from the show’s great visuals and actors, but not so much the storytelling. By leaving out a great many parts of the plots they have messed with characters’ motivations as well as leaving a ton of loose ends. Characters just tend to fall off the map, i.e. Edmure Tully, his new wife, the Blackfish, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, Osha and Rickon, to name just a few. Other characters who could help the exposition have been left out entirely. What happened to the Freys? Where are the Ironborn? Quentyn Martell? I could get into this more deeply, except that this post wasn’t supposed to be a critique of Game of Thrones.

Another indication that human beings are on their way out came from a book I read a few years ago called ‘Naive Super’ written by Norwegian novelist Erlend Loe. This book is about a university dropout who left school because he didn’t see a point in it anymore. Instead, he’d rather study the people around him, make lists of random things, and write letters to a scientist named Paul Davies whose book he is currently reading has fascinated and scared him into thinking the universe is coming to an end. The letter contains a list of pertinent questions such as:

#3. Do you sometimes feel that everything you do is futile because the sun will be burnt out in 5 billion years?

#6. How is it possible that the past, the present and the future all exist at the same time?

#10. Do you think that the human brain is capable of thinking an infinite number of thoughts?

In Paul Davies’ book is also an interesting exercise which could determine how far along human beings are in their term of existence. Two urns contain names written on pieces of paper. In the first urn are 10 pieces of paper, in the other 1,000. You are to write your own name on a piece of paper and place it in the urn with the most pieces. Next, the papers are removed. Depending on where your name is drawn, and calculating that if this is to count for everyone who will ever live, then there should be a 2 in 3 chance that the total number is limited and that we are approaching the end. (Erlend’s name came up 3rd out of 1,000 when he conducted this experiment.)

The above makes perfect sense to me and serves to reinforce the idea that the human race will cease to exist fairly soon, relatively speaking, and it is all because of our own stupidity, mixed with impatience and greed.