What We Have At the End of the World

In a way, hope is a failure of imagination. In a way, it is a flourishing.

It is a failure because I cannot imagine the end. The world goes on, and on and on, even when we wish it would stop.

I know how bad it is. The emission levels, the microplastics, the pipelines, the species gone, the rogue genes introduced, the coral dying, the water rising. The infrastructure still damaged in Puerto Rico when I visit my great-uncle, the droughts and floods within the same week that destroy the soil of my mother’s farm in Illinois, a tornado in a Minnesotan December as I leave another message on my senator’s voicemail. I know.

But the end? That I cannot comprehend. There is a well of despair so deep I could fall forever, there is a grief so all-consuming it warps the edges of dimensions, melts reality like plastic trash on a campfire. Who could wrap their mind around that loss?

I am only human. I can only hold one emotion for so long.

In a way, hope is a flourishing of imagination. Because when we reject the surrender of the end, we must imagine going on in new ways. And there is no limit to the paths the authors have chosen in answering this submission call for complexity, complicity, and hope.

Always hope.

We become trees, exhaling oxygen and digging our roots into eroding shores; we become islands, and rise up. We endow the soil itself with artificial intelligence and willingly place our fate in its hands. We speak with fungi, and we speak with our family, and all of the conversations are hard and necessary. We grapple with a monstrous, enduring capitalism, and reach out for each other as it tries to trap us within ourselves. Even when we are no longer on the planet, there are echoes of us and our actions in the relationships of the lives, natural and mechanical, we leave behind. We become ghosts but it never stops mattering that we were here, that we did what we could.

We go on and on and on. Together.

It is not utopia. But it is what we can have, these careful negotiations, communications, challenges, and sharing. We have relationships. New, complicated, frustrating, rewarding. Alive.

Relationships are what we have at the end of the world. The world is ending right now.

Hello. Nice to meet you. Please sit down. Are you warm? I have made my mother’s herbal tea. I have made soup from a local butcher and a CSA. I have made cookies from lard and wheat flour and sugar whose history is drenched in blood; they sparkle in the light. Please eat. It’s cold outside, for now. Tell me what you imagine.

The world is also beginning.

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