For those who’ve acquired the taste and skill, there’s a uniquely rewarding pleasure in a book’s well executed ending. In great works, themes are introduced, developed or hidden, and in the end, a masterful author pulls it together in a way we didn’t see coming. But in retrospect the unfolding was altogether obvious and inevitable. This may come in the form of a plot twist, a revelation, a reversal of fortune…Whatever the mechanism…if the ending is compelling, and launches the reader into a new realm of contemplation or appreciation, it’s a thing of beauty.
With this idea as a reference point, I found a certain train of thought barreling down the tracks of my mind this week. But the story is too vast, and my skills too paltry to pull off the literary feat. However, for the sake of discussion, I’ll pitch the main motif here:
Our tale begins, en media res (mid-stream in the story) with Early Man gathered around a fire pit. We can almost smell the burned fats from a freshly killed beast filling the air. The heat from the embers reaches a cold place in our psyches, and we bask in the comraderie found as a result of the blaze.
The story moves along, we progress from hunting and nomadic living to settled cities and agriculture. Languages, governments, masses of population come and go. Fill in the blanks here…I’m speeding towards the climax.
Now it’s deep into the tale. The protagonists and antagonists are all too familiar; the well meaning but powerless individual, the docile masses, the scheming despots, the sacrificial victims…Everywhere we look, on every continent, in every age, despite beautiful outbursts of creativity and kindness, there are monsters in human form, greedy and controlling.
In this tale we’ve seen that some tyrants act out of a base nature and barbarism (invoking a quick flashback).
Another type of villain uses cunning, crafts laws, forces collusion, twists ethics, manipulates currencies, and creates climates of paranoia to maintain their grip on power.
The collective, innately sentient and ever sympathetic, casts about for a solution. Will a hero rise from the ranks to save the day? Is it too late?
Ever thus, the chain of events set in motion from the original Promethean gift becomes ultimately manifest in an overheated planet. Each year the temperature rises, and all the pieces of our mosaic shift with the melting of ice, C02 saturating the atmosphere, swings of ocean salinity, and the ensuing planetary changes.
Despite efforts to reverse the damage, it seems the human race is powerless to turn the tide. It’s happening too fast, the forces of darkness are too entrenched. But in the final pages of our book- perhaps revealed to a child staring into the flames of a fire on a family camping trip- the warming planet itself, containing all the myriad life forms we so arrogantly claim dominion over, made hot by our unrelenting ambition, purges its body of inequities and iniquities. The dictators, slave traders, corrupt corporations, too-big-to-fail banks all are consumed in a cleansing fever.
It may not be a happy ending, but there is a twisted logic in the ring of fire coming all the way around. With some fleeting satisfaction found in hubris overcome and justice served, no matter the cost.
Epilogue: agents for the scribes of the Book of Revelation sue me for copyright infringement. My lawyers stall for a negotiated settlement in the afterlife.