(2019 midterm assignment)

Model Midterm answers 2019 (Index)

Essay 3: Web Highlights

LITR 4368
Literature of the Future  

Model Assignments


Audrey Lange

Solipsism & You: A Post-Apocalyptic Guide

          There is a recurring theme amongst all apocalyptic narratives: it is all about you. Or rather, about us, human beings, with you symbolizing all of us. One of the most interesting questions we can pose about these narratives is whether or not we are -- honestly -- worthy of the focus of the whole apocalypse. This essay assumes that truth: we are deserving to be the sole focus of the end of the world. You are deserving of that title. Thus, in being the only person who deserves to have their story told, you must have a toolkit with which to survive this apocalypse. Here, I have outlined survival tips for your solipsistic needs as the world devolves into chaos.

          The best advice I can seek to give to anyone experiencing global destruction as a uniquely personal event is to genuinely believe that you are the exception. Human exceptionalism, specifically American, is a hallmark of apocalyptic stories, and will aid you in the coming days. As Ashley Schaller so succinctly divulges in her essay, “Intensive Refocusing of Apocalyptic Narratives; What If It’s Not Our Apocalypse?,” Earth is the exception. You can be too. If Earth was truly exceptional in its composition, and created separate and different to be the alien’s Eden, who’s to say you can’t be this planet’s long-suffering mortal god? Schaller raises interesting points about your place in all of this chaos that I think are worth speaking to, specifically because she does try to reframe your apocalypse as someone else’s. What an interesting idea, that human suffering is not the cosmic constant! However, her ultimate point circles back to you, as all must. “We need narratives that would matter to us if they occurred,” she says. “Whether it’s a prophecy determined by God or an idea for the latest film, as long as humans are the ones affected, apocalyptic narratives are sure to capture our attention.” All you have to do to survive is continue to imagine yourself as the protagonist of the entire human story, and you’ll be just fine.

          Similarly, the second tip I have for you, our dear, singular apocalypse survivor, is to assume there is a place to go. Earth cannot simply be it. You will never run out of ground or space to traverse, nor will you eventually grow tired and die searching for a new home. Cynthia Perkins summarizes this perfectly, saying, “[Parable of the Sower] reminds us that if humans want to live to see the future, they will have to learn to adapt and evolve.” You will, of course, survive. There will always be more for you, similar to Lauren in Parable. More stars to reach for, dear protagonist. Perkins summarizes the need to evolve perfectly by capitulating what you are already performing: fast-tracked evolution. You “will either adapt and evolve to the ever changing environment or (...) will cease to exist,” presumably at a faster rate that previously thought biologically possible. Since you cannot cease to exist, you can now withstand any hardships that may seek to take you from your long-awaited new home -- presuming that you find it. Of course, you will.

          Finally, to complete your transformation into the only interesting apocalyptic protagonist our world has ever seen or will see again, you must believe that your reality is entirely objective. This, of course, is why this guide is about solipsism, rather than simply self-absorption: you are the sole harbinger of the whole of objective reality. Vaneza Cervantes speaks to this while dissecting the theory of simultaneous utopias and dystopias. “Maybe there’s something better outside of our confinement,” she ponders. “Maybe the dystopian world that we thought is actually our utopian. (...) [Lauren] found something better, she experienced mental and physical growth finding a utopian world.” This is your dystopia, but you can make it your utopia. Disregard others (they will not exist soon!) and regard your reality as wholly objective. If you are experiencing dystopia, the whole world must be; thus is true solipsism. Cervantes recounts the tale of “Mozart in Mirrorshades,” a work I’m sure strikes a personal chord with you. “[Rice] could as he wished,” she explains. “Take anything he wanted because he had the power to, whereas in his everyday dull world (to him probably dystopia, following orders and such) he could not.” This idea of being the acting god of an entire reality is absolutely central to your survival in these fraught times.

          You now have in your possession some of the best advice one can hope to receive to become the sole survivor of a global catastrophe. You are prepared to be the only person worthy of living through such an event, and to find all new worlds to traverse until they are, in time destroyed as well. You have been prepped to fade into self-centering habits when someone (possibly a supporting character who wholly relies on you and is nothing without your story) questions your pursuit of a personal utopia. You, dear reader, have laid the groundwork for a truly heart-wrenching narrative about a single sole traversing an empty world. All that’s left? Perhaps, to destroy it all yourself.