Portents

Signs Foretelling the End of the World

First there was the election of a president whose history was well known, a man of no ethics or empathy, whose triple marriages and extra-marital affairs were well-documented, a man who had a gift for the barbaric rhetoric of blame, and who lied and distorted the truth so that those without the power of logic and no interest in past or future followed him with blind enthusiasm.

Then there were the lightning strikes and hurricanes, causing fires and floods more intense than ever before, as though God were punishing us. But unlike the Flood and Noah’s ark, these disasters were repeated in tuneless variations year after year so that there was no longer even among the luckiest of human populations any security of mind. And the suffering those increasingly commonplace disasters caused was more widespread than ever before. Human beings, for their quality of life, depend on a belief that tomorrow may be better. Without this belief despair seeps in, and in a state of despair and pessimism, anarchy slips in and causes chaos. It was hard to retain the optimism that allows people to start over after a great loss, and down the road we saw an inevitable chain of losses.

A new comet appeared a few months into the pandemic. What did it portend? It was not particularly dramatic but it hovered like a visitation, and its bits of ice and debris shivered as the comet made a way past Earth, as though grieving all that Earth had been and was no more.

And it was no coincidence that throughout these months astronomers were turning their sights ever outward, finding new galaxies in the expanding universe, and we realized that the universe is even more infinite than we imagined, that if Earth before appeared as a speck of shiny blue dust, now it was a millionth of a millionth-tinier speck, and what size did that make us, who live on it?

There were more shootings of young people on the streets of New York, there were protests against the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the lynching by shotgun of Ahmaud Arbery, and people flowed into the streets to protest indignantly, and some low-lifes took advantage of the scene to break in and steal, so the president sent National Guardsmen to the streets of Portland and Kenosha to rough up peaceful protestors. It seemed like the urge to control anything, everything, spread like the novel coronavirus he had minimized. He went on spreading his own version of the truth, imposing it where possible. 

All of this was visited upon us, and a darkness spread over everything and everyone. To see these things happening as though through the wrong end of a telescope was a strange experience, like watching a burning anthill, panicked ants rushing every which way.