Symposium

A Discussion About (Mostly) Books as They Relate to a Theme of Contemporary Interest

Tomorrow’s epidemic of forgetting, today

Too often we get caught up in the utilitarian aspects of the apocalypse. We wonder what we will need—canned goods, shotguns, bars of gold, hand sanitizer?—as though imagining a video game, as though the right items will help us make it past Level End-of-the-World. What we don’t ask is what memories we will need to make it through the end of days, how we will safeguard the past.

Perhaps we don’t ask these kinds of questions because so many of our fantasies of the apocalypse come with the hope of a clean slate. Most people will die, and those that remain will face a hard existence, but they will be free to walk away from their old lives and reinvent themselves. It’s a fantasy as old as Genesis: with a big enough flood, one gets to start over completely. All of Noah’s bad credit and debts, the embarrassing things his coworkers know about him, the lies he told his first girlfriend and never got around to correcting—all those vanish with enough rain and destruction.

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Colin Dickey is the author of two books of nonfiction, Cranioklepty and Afterlives of the Saints, and is currently working on a book about ghosts.

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