If the world should end in ice
In days of endless night
I'll let the snowstorms cover me
In a blanket of white
And remember red, red robins
Hopping across the yard
Hunting singing crickets
As the first evening stars
Opened up their eyes
And dropped their golden tears
On every windowsill
And always will
And always will.
- The Handsome Family, "If The World Should End In Ice"
Up at 4 a.m., thinking about the end of the universe.
It is a hard thing to know that all things apparently must end. In more and more dark senses, beyond the minor ugly indigestible facts of one's own personal subsiding into the geological strata... beyond even the eventual failure of the species to survive and the disappearance of all its awarenesses and memory and valued things into mindless oblivion. (We have a chance to go longer if we can get away from this solar system, maybe even much longer, but forever is impossible.) Apparently there will come a time when no species of life anywhere in the universe can have persisted, no matter where it lived. And things will just keep getting colder and duller after that, with time marching onward with softer and softer footfalls, eventually none at all. All the stars will be gone... and in time it is going to be as if stars and light and energy and anything happening at all will be something that only pertained for a bare flaring second after the Big Bang, with nothing following. With nothing following. Long, long after the time when stars stop shining, the black holes will dissolve, becoming the very last sources of heat and light as they end. After that nothing else will disturb the universal equalization of temperature. No work will be done. No interesting change will ever happen again. Perhaps even what we call the basic particles will dissolve. Perhaps not even that will change. The hardest thing to know is that - as things go on - for most of existence of the universe, and eventually it might as well have been for all, as time plods on and on and on and on like an idiot - it will no longer be a shame that there is no more mind and awareness, because there will be nothing for it to be aware of.
Life is more fundamentally and redundantly finite than would be needed by even the most vain and stubborn pride in need of correction.
But here I am, and here we are. There is always this tension between the fact of death and life as hope. I will never have kids, and I don't begin to believe that my day-to-day pastimes fill the need for meaning, so my whole sense of what this is for focuses on the long term and on awareness and on survival, of one thing or another, in one sense or another. So I send people crates of my favorite books - "recommendation by the deed"; ha - so that those good books do not vanish, yet, into the great sea of forgotten things not read. I think we must arrange to live better in the world so that we narrow and channel the chances of crisis and of want down the road, so that as much as possible may live as much as possible, in as many ways as possible. I think that we should spread ourselves across the solar system, and as far beyond it as we can, and, as Ray Bradbury says, become whatever we need to in order to go on as long as we can. Forever and memory are impossible, but I am pointed at forever and at memory (well, when I am really awake, I am), and I think we all should be. I think that is the game.
And remember to stop and smell the roses. Just because death is coming - of all sorts. And just because it's a rose, a real rose, there for you, still holding its petals and scent.
To The Stone-Cutters, by Robinson Jeffers
Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.