I have no idea where to begin writing about The End. When I consider this prompt, so many thoughts swell from my brain that I can’t settle on a single stream of consciousness. It’s like the machine Professor Xavier built in the X-Men comics and movies. Cerebro was conceived to take the pulse of human civilization by allowing the Professor to magnify his telepathic abilities and touch scores of minds simultaneously. Of course, archvillain Magneto was able to seize control and pervert Cerebro for his own evil purposes; he used it to identify all the mutants on the planet and run a recruitment program the upshot of which was to eliminate all “normal” people. We can’t even have nice things in fiction…
When I try to separate individual streams from the stinging flood of the firehose, I perceive many voices, many images. Most are tired, too many are angry, and all are motivated by fear. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of not having enough. Fear of being rendered irrelevant, even in what’s meant to be a starring role of the films of their own lives. This leads people to tighten their grip on their current existence. I see a sea of white knuckles skinned red and raw by fighting the inevitable and each other.
At this point, I believe it’s a toss-up as to whether civilization will collapse before the planet’s ecosystem fails. There’s an apt phrase in computer programming to describe when a system encounters a flaw that renders it unable to complete an action. Because everything manmade will likely cease to work as intended at some point, the best a programmer can hope for is to make his or her program “fail elegantly.” This requires intimate knowledge of and connection to the functions of the code, logical prowess to consider and map out as many unknowns as possible, and a willingness to confront one’s own mortality — to acknowledge and handle imperfection with grace. But as a race, our reason has been eroded by fancy and frivolity, our concrete logic submerged in a swamp of conspiracy theories, our humility drowned in an ocean of hubris.
We are not long for this world, and it is not long for us, either. As The End approaches, then, I shall try to do more than merely hear the voices and view the images; I want to listen and see. Perhaps remaining conscious now, despite the pain, holds some value? Perhaps it can transmute a popcorn flick full of two-dimensional superheroes and cartoon baddies into a documentary, a cautionary tale for the lives that persist beyond the fall.