Recently, someone asked me off-handedly if I was a hypochondriac. I'm pretty sure he expected my answer would be "no." He doesn't know me that well yet. My answer was actually, "Well, sure. Not about everything. Just about the things that can kill me. Like, I'm not worried about Lyme disease, but I am worried about rabies." What I was trying to tell him, I guess, is that I am not a classic hypochondriac in the sense that I'm worried about my health all the time. I don't worry about my life, exactly. I worry about my death. I really don't want to die. So, naturally, I am obsessed with all things death and all the different ways that I might possibly die.
I am not alone in this. Woody Allen recently wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times in which he wrote, "I am always certain I’ve come down with something life threatening. It matters little that few people are ever found dead of chapped lips. Every minor ache or pain sends me to a doctor’s office in need of reassurance that my latest allergy will not require a heart transplant, or that I have misdiagnosed my hives and it’s not possible for a human being to contract elm blight." He then went on to talk about how his wife still gives him hickeys, which made me VERY UNCOMFORTABLE, but I guess it's good that old people have sex? I should grow the fuck up. No doubt about it.
But so anyway, I personally don't worry about chapped lips. I worry about other stuff. And, it's actually stuff that just about everyone with any imagination at all should be worried about too. I've put together a list for you, so we can worry together. Us and Woody and his hickey-giving wife.
So, I mentioned earlier that I'm kind of afraid of rabies. Here's the thing. There is a 100% fatality rate for rabies. You can't get more deadly than that. And it's a truly horrible death, one where the most humane solution would be to put the rabies sufferer out of his or her misery and just move on. But doctors can't do that. So they strap patients down and sedate them as they linger and die, foaming at the mouth. Of course, rabies is incredibly rare in the US. But bats have it. And apparently YOU CAN GET BITTEN BY A SMALL BAT AND NEVER EVEN FEEL IT. Then, boom. A few weeks later and you're all terribly foamy and repelled by the sight of water and maybe you even have chapped lips and you're wildly sexually voracious and soon you're dead. Now, you might be like "Hold up. I don't want to die, but I do like sex. What's the deal with that?"
Well, I'll tell you. The deal is terrible. It's a terrible deal. In the book “Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus” by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, you will find out that the death throes of rabies "can cause sustained erections, and on rare occasions, frequent and uncontrollable ejaculations in human males." What a way to go. I get really scared that I've unknowingly contracted rabies whenever I spend any time at all in nature. This is why I live in Brooklyn and almost never leave my apartment.
The Doomsday Clock
So, this was actually sent to me by Brooklyn Magazine's brilliant art director, Crystal Gwyn, because she knows how much I talk and think about death and despair. And how I don't believe in love, but that's another post. Probably it will be up near Valentine's Day. Anyway. There is an actual thing called the Doomsday Clock and it is run by scientists and it is set at five minutes to midnight and midnight, as we all know, is DOOMSDAY. According to LiveScience.com "The Doomsday Clock came into being in 1947 as a way for atomic scientists to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons." The Doomsday Clock is not as close to midnight as it has been in the past—in 1949 when atomic war between the US and the USSR seemed imminent, it was at three minutes to midnight—but it's still not looking so great. Global warming and increases in nuclear arsenals and things like the Fukushima nuclear meltdown all have scientists very worried. And when scientists start to worry, so do I.
Bad Playlists In Heaven
So, there's apparently a thing now called a CataCombo Sound System, which is a coffin with built in speakers so that when you're dead and buried you can still listen to all the awesome playlists that you put together when you were alive and above ground. The owner of CataCombo helpfully posted his own playlist and it is called "Pause 4-ever" and it includes such songs as John Mayer's "Perfectly Lonely" and Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" and while, yes, I would only listen to those songs if I was dead, that's not the part I'm scared of. The part I'm worried about is that other people—living people—can change the playlist after you're dead. So, you could be lying there, dead in your coffin, waiting for R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" to come on, annoyed with yourself that you included Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" because it drags on forever and you heard enough of it when you were alive and then ALL OF A SUDDEN Gotye comes on. YOU WOULD NEVER PUT GOTYE ON YOUR DEATH PLAYLIST. But the living don't care about you anymore. And there you are, trapped in that coffin, without a remote, for eternity. This worries me.
So, I never used to be worried about the Chinese eugenic program. Or a lot of other things. Until I read this post on Edge.org in which a lot of really smart people explain what they're worried about. And this stuff is pretty scary. Including the Chinese eugenics program, about which this one dude, Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at NYU of all places says, "I worry that this poses some existential threat to Western civilization. Yet the most likely result is that America and Europe linger around a few hundred more years as also-rans on the world-historical stage, nursing our anti-hereditarian political correctness to the bitter end." Is this scarier than rabies? Unclear at this point. But it certainly sounds scary. The whole post is very long and full of many other important things to be worried about like "Unfriendly Physics" and "Internet Drivel" and "Self-Organizing Collective Delusions" and "Misplaced Worries." I feel like those last three in particular should be of special concern to me.
Dying From A Nightmare
Now, in theory, dying in your sleep is the way to go, right? You won't even know what happened. But this is what terrifies me. I always want to know what's happening. But I'm youngish and in reasonably good health and so, probably, I'm not going to die of natural causes in my sleep. Unless, of course, my dreams kill me. Doree Shafrir wrote a completely chilling account of nightmare-induced, self-inflicted violence that I have not been able to stop thinking about. So, yeah, I am not sleeping much. I have a slight background with this in that, once, when I was in high school and had gone with a friend to an Ani DiFranco concert (shut up, it was 1998) I went to sleep that night and woke up coughing with my own hands wrapped around my throat. Did I die? No. Has it happened again? Also, no. Have I listened to Ani DiFranco since then? No, but that might not be exactly related. Anyway. This is very scary. I don't want to die in my sleep. Like Woody Allen, I want to die, "being kicked to death by a pair of scantily clad cocktail waitresses."
So, after talking about all those horrifying things, I wanted to end on a good note. So here it is. Crabs might be going extinct. By crabs, of course, I mean PUBIC LICE. Bloomberg reports that, "Pubic lice, the crab-shaped insects that have dwelled in human groins since the beginning of history, are disappearing. Doctors say bikini waxing may be the reason." So, that's exciting. One less thing to worry about anyway. As long as you keep things smooth, like a piece of salmon sashimi. Or an oyster. Ah, food that looks like a vagina is the only thing that keeps me going sometimes.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen