I never once wanted a shortcut into heaven. I never once wanted a tunnel running down to a subway underground. I prefer to roll the dice and take my chances, to live and die by fate alone. If the water tumbles in upon me; if the dirt slides over me; if the wind blows me into oblivion; well then, that’s the way that destiny wants it to be.
I want no part of this tsunami tower. And why should I? The whole thing, all several million dollars of it (and I do mean millions), seems to have its birth in those old science fiction movies, where thousands of people stand in line with suitcases and puppies and children cradled in their arms, waiting for a chance to stand in a metal cylinder and hold out for the inevitable end, while armed guards wearing white gloves, white helmets and semi-automatics, bust people in the jaw for trying to crowd their way in line.
So, do I want to die in the flood, or die in the pressure cooker? Do I want to stand at the gates, do I wave goodbye to my friends and lovers down below and watch them drown? Do I want to stand in line for my ration of canned spaghetti? And what happens once I’ve got my sackful of boiled potatoes? My grandma, who made the best pot roast in the world, now she’ll be hoarding a fistful of roots she pulled from the ground on her way in here. What a triumph! She can put these with the bag of spinach flavored calf brains they gave her at the door.
The gift of life is precious, but only for what we deserve. There is no joy in a 13-acre ventilator. I found a new life on the Peninsula. How much more am I entitled to? A man in a Portland traffic jam or a woman standing in an endless line in a Seattle grocery store is (probably) making a lot more money than I am, but it comes at a terrible cost. My high blood pressure is my own fault, my chance at an early heart attack is something I can live with. Chances are I won’t get robbed, I won’t get killed, my house won’t get broken into. The air is clean, the wind is fresh, the trees and the plants are filled with color. The city man gets the money, but I get everything else. If we’re all going to die anyway (and let’s face it, it’s going to happen), then let me die a free man.
Kill me if you must, let the lightning find me, let an elephant crush me, let the philosophers bore me, let my heart go because I pushed too hard on a hike. Let me surprise a bear, let me get pecked to death by a seagull. Let nature get hold of me, don’t let me die on the freeway, let me die of old age, make me old and slow and wise. And if the water should take me, then let it be so.
Or else, you can do this. Build a tower for people who die leering at pretty young girls, for old men who live on the internet with the curtains closed and the doors locked. Build a tower for Chevy drivers and Methodists and people who love cottage cheese or swear in tongues. Who will be selected to be saved by the tower?
So ... where you gonna put everybody?
I know. Let’s build lots and lots of towers! That way no one will have to ever touch the ground again, you’ll never have to say good morning to anybody, you can keep warm by setting fire to the tops of trees.
Let’s get serious for a moment. How ya gonna keep people out? What happens if you run out of cranberry sauce or boiled beets? Can you walk away from all the bits and pieces of your life? Can you leave it all behind?
It’s all very sad. Do you want to separate yourself from your neighbors? Do you want to leave behind your loved ones? And how about this: they give you three spots to stand in your tower and you have four children?
Am I a better man because I got to the tsunami tower before you did? Can you leave old pictures and old memories behind? Supposing you can’t get grandma out of her chair and into the car. How do you make those decisions (and how can you live with them)?
There’ll be room enough for maybe one out of 10 people: Everybody else will either fend for themselves or die. Will that be a moral victory for anyone?