Fragments 10/10: The end of all things

I began a 10-day experiment on October 30th. For 10 days, I am:

  1. Setting a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Writing what I can during that time
  3. Stopping when the time is up
  4. Posting what is written without any final editing

For additional context, check out the first post in this series by clicking here.


START

It will be a time when words cease. The lion will lift its paw and every tongue will give pause, as an orchestra before the conductor’s suspended baton. It will be as though one was looking for a country and, having dashed for miles through hill and valley to find someone to point him in the right direction, suddenly comes to understand that the very terrain he’s traversed in frantic longing is the very soil he has search for all along. 

The greats of every age will take their place among the humble and the humble among the great. For all will be instilled with the simple knowledge that there is nothing left to say and nothing left to do. As a once busy mind, weary from sorting through the archives of yesterday, today, tomorrow, and a thousand days more, finally slows to a still sleep, so shall the infinite neurons of our souls fold their hands and take their seat to watch eternity unfold. 

Things that could not formerly give pause will be further stilled. Stars may cease their relentless consuming and mountains, their solemn humming. It will be as though a translucent sheet were dropped from view. Things once invisible will now be made plain. Things once in the forefront of focus now obscured in the midst of larger, grander light and colors, or things as impossibly small yet undeniable as the bending of a grass blade in the wind. 

STOP


I wrote these words on the train this evening. Recently, my commutes have been split between reading books and listening to podcasts. The material I’ve filled the time with has ranged from philosophies that are way over my head to thought-provoking commentaries on racial tensions to comedic banter.

Today was different. Receiving much media input can make one bloated so I felt the need to produce some output to balance my equilibrium. Before I left work, I ripped a few pages out of a spiral notebook and folded them into my pocket.

After entering the subway station, an announcement on the PA system indicated that the incoming train would not be taking any passengers. Moments later it rolled up to the platform with empty passenger cars and closed doors. It remained at the platform for about 10 minutes while the air became so thick with a foul exhaust that I covered my nose with my pulled-over-the-shoulder sweatshirt hood. Some component of train machinery pierced the air with intermittent, staccato splutters of steam. We waited as the digitized voices on the PA system announced the delays. The train eventually rolled out of the station and was followed by the one that would take me home. I found a seat, set my timer, held the papers taught against my leg to form a writing surface and wrote about the end of the world.

That may sound morbid but it’s the truth, and I wasn’t approaching the subject from a morbid perspective. If you’ve ever read The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, you’ll recall that the end of the book (the last in the seven-book Narnia series) tells of the sweeping destruction and renewal of Narnia. If you’re familiar with the last book of the bible, Revelation, you’ll see some parallels between the events described by both C.S. Lewis and the apostle John. In both accounts, the events that take place are beyond words. There is chaos and order, fury and silence, tragedy and jubilee. The last image we are left with is a deep peace and joy. For the past few days, I’ve had it in my mind to put some thoughts on paper on this subject and to highlight some of the stillness and beauty that have been touched on by these authors.

In the bible, John has a vision of what ‘the end’ will be like. Human language is apparently inadequate to describe all of it. “And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby” (Rev. 4:3). Jasper and ruby must be the closest equivalents in our language to what he saw. I think that’s awesome. I’d like to think he was so perplexed by what he saw that he was helplessly grasping at words to try to convey the image. As John discovered, sometimes glimpses of God and eternity are hidden in the marvelous shimmer of a ruby. Other times, they are depicted through a sweeping C.S. Lewis epic. Or sometimes  a simple train delay at the end of the day. May our attempts to capture those glimpses in our words, images, and memories always fail just enough to keep us looking.

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