The Poet Must Be Mistaken

I wrote the following as a creative response to Yeat's "The Second Coming:"

This is a story about the end of time. There are stories about how we got here. There’s the story about a forbidden apple hanging from a tree. About brothers murdering brothers, divine promises and descendents flung out over the earth like sand on the seashore. There’s the story about volcanic heat and seafloor proteins and the inauguration of a spark of life which catches and spreads like a wildfire, shifting and molding itself until it manifests in as many variations as there are stars in the sky. There are other stories, too.

Since the beginning, we have been a people of creation. We’ve created music and words, art and traditions, towering structures and beautiful ideologies. Most of all, we’ve created stories. Our greatest strength lies in our ability to realize these stories, to render them across the face of reality the way a muralist paints a fresco over a drab gray wall. All of our social institutions, all the shoes we grow up to fill, are nothing but stories in the process of becoming real.

Each of these accomplishments, however, has come at a staggering cost. Since the beginning, our hands have been stained with the blood of our brothers. We distinguished ourselves from the animals only to become more calculating in our destruction. We hammered bronze out of molten rock only to slice open each other’s bellies. We crafted wheels only to grind our families beneath them. We mastered fire only to set entire cities ablaze and to watch them burn. We established religion only to divide the world into the divine and the blasphemous, only to feed our hungry while we slaughter their soldiers. We have unlocked the secrets of energy and physics only to massacre entire races, defile entire continents with nuclear fallout and acid rain.

Here, at the end of time, we stand on our heap of rubble and stare backward, clutching our meager jewels, wishing we could trade it all to start over again knowing everything we know now. We’ve taken the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and have let it ferment into a fine vintage, enough wisdom to stay our killing hand. We’ve planted gardens, we’ve cured diseases, we’ve eradicated poverty, and we’ve managed to weave science and faith and culture and politics into a seamless, synergetic fabric. But it’s not enough. The cost was too high, there are too many unmarked graves pocking the cratered landscape of our memory.

This is a story about the end of time, but also about the beginning. We’ve started telling a new story, a story about building a machine capable of throwing us backward, of skipping us like a stone over the surface of the waters of time, so that we might land on the shore of the first dawn. We hope to encounter our first ancestors and convince them that we are like Gods, and that they should walk with us in the cool of the evening as we tell them our tragic story. Our hope is to impart a cautionary tale, to give them the meat of wisdom along with the knowledge they’ll inevitably cultivate.

Has this been the first time? Is our idea of God nothing but the wisdom of a future race, a desperate attempt to keep us from destroying ourselves all over again? If so, then we must believe that, as the coral shell folds back in on itself, so with human beings and time. Though we will circle and gyre back to where we started, the poet must be mistaken, the center must hold. It must be a beacon for our upward spiral, our outward shine, as we reflect ever increasing glory back to the heavens. Maybe we’ll shine bright enough to turn God’s head; or at least become the God we never stopped dreaming about.