The world is still here.
That apocalypse? The one you've been talking about for the last fifty years? Social, economic, political, ecological, literal? It happened. It's in the past.
Things are fucked up, don't get me wrong.
But the world is still here.
Modernism was about the last days of the world. Post-Modernism was its violent decentering and de[con]struction. Now we've made it through and it's time to whip out our Geiger counters and test the air.
Sure, there are problems. Radiation is everywhere. Food and water are scarce. Society is in shambles. Things need to be put back together (or might be better off in the rubble). Even if it is safe to go outside, there's always the threat of a long nuclear winter.
But that poster, the one that always caught your eye on the bus, somehow survived the inferno. The pastoral photo still looks beautiful. You don't wish that was your family, but they somehow remind you of them. The surrounding destruction only serves to enhance these feelings.
As you start to explore what was once your city, you notice that a lot remains standing. Maybe only a shell. Maybe only a skeleton. But enough of the past to evoke what was here before it all fell down. Some of it is even fully intact.
And your memories are the same as they would have been had you simply moved away. The city will always stand that way, and it remains yours to explore as long as you hold on to it.
The world is still here.
And even if it were worse, it still would be.
It's not as if we're unnatural aberrations summoned by a band of rogue sorcerers intent on destroying Earth. We're overgrown wasps with gigantic nests we call cities. That doesn't excuse the damage we cause, but it does make the whole human/nature dichotomy a bit redundant. We might change, taint, use, and harm what was here before us, but we can't completely abolish it. That's not to say that we haven't tried, and it's not to say that we haven't irrevocably destroyed a great deal of it, but our cities are still part of nature. The sky is not artificial (although perhaps not pure). The grass, trees, weeds, flowers, shrubs, and clover are still made out of walled cells. Our squirrels are not robots, nor are the insects, spiders, cats, dogs, and birds. It's not harmonious, fair, or even, but it's still a union. It's still the same whole.
And there's no way for us to destroy the world. No matter how hard we try.
We can make it toxic. We can finish corrupting the biosphere. We can shift the atmosphere from uncomfortable to unbreathable. We can wipe ourselves and everything we recognize from the face of the Earth.
But the world will still be there.
Extremeophiles of some stripe will survive, and sometime within the next five billion years (when the sun is set to clean up anything we do leave behind), they'll take our place. Maybe making the same mistakes. Maybe making others. And, someday, they'll find all that we've left behind. Maybe part of a tower. Maybe a tire. Maybe even some scrap of text that's survived the sedimentary weight. There's a 1/1x10^20 (or so) chance that some of this post could survive.
That's not to say that we should champion our own destruction. Longevity's no excuse to inflict misery, and if there is a distinction to be made between humanity and nature it might be the ability to do something about that.
What I want to point out is how big it all is. None of this matters to the kid who is riding home from school with his first failing grade. None of this matters to the someone who just saw the death of her lover. None of this matters to the actor with his first big break. None of this matters to the physicist who just won the lottery. None of this matters to the family without enough money to turn on the heat. None of this matters to the penguins preparing for mating season. None of this matters to the column on ants. None of this matters to the observers in Andromeda, watching us two-and-a-half million years ago.
All of this matters to all of them.
And that's the thing. This is all a contradiction. None of it makes sense, except for the parts that do. That's what makes life worth living. That's what makes it interesting. Anything else is far too predictable.