Alas, Poor Yorick

 Species - Tinnitus - Final Frontiers - Cosmic Writ


The hammer of inevitability
Breaks the hardest backs,
From ankylosaurus to the cockroach.
And we're far more fragile than these.

From the Pergamon Museum, Berlin (photo RYC)

From the Pergamon Museum, Berlin (photo RYC)



When he heard the story it reminded him of an ancient myth, something so old it had to be true. And with it came the deep swell of the ocean, where Leviathans and ancient sea monsters battled in the first waters of life. Tiamat and Marduk, angels falling from the skies. The Chaos Monster vs. the Sun God, something you'd find in an Assyrian bas-relief from three thousand years ago.

Chaos Monster and the Sun God, Nineveh, in the British Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

Chaos Monster and the Sun God, Nineveh, in the British Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

When he heard the epilogue he heard more than ancient myth. This wasn't just Tiamat and Marduk. These were real live living beings. A squadron of angels ascended back into the sky. One took singular shape, and slithered into a garden.

Dante's vision of the universe, from the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence (photo RYC)

Dante's vision of the universe, from the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence (photo RYC)


What were once a rumble of words, deep swells from the abyss of time, were now sentences. The voice that spoke to him was ever more specific. 

Gabriel spoke to me in the bright afternoon. 


Final Frontiers

We have no reliable way of saying what happens after death. Heavenly light may beam us up like angels into a fluorescent Garden of Eden. Alien laser-beams may shred us like pigs in a slaughterhouse. Or we might just decay, slowly, six feet under.

We hope it'll be Dante's rosy Paradise -- or Shelley's neoplatonic One, taking us with It past flowers and tomb, beyond the words and music that are weak / the glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak. We fear it'll be Macbeth's tale told by an idiot, his monotony of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, his absurd drama full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

One thing is certain: sooner or later we will become food for worms. And as we lie quietly in our graves -- our life force seeping into the earth or zooming into the heavens -- what we now recognize as our lives will be superseded by the millions, perhaps billions, of rotations of planet Earth. As our bodies decompose and slowly return to the dust and ashes from whence they came -- and as our souls go wherever they might go -- our planet will continue its journey around the sun. Our sun will continue its journey around the centre of the Milky Way, which will continue its journey toward Andromeda. Together, this enormous phalanx of stars (which is only a fraction of the universe) will travel toward the cluster of galaxies called the Great Attractor.


Cosmic Writ


At death, the English words

That rolled through your brain and off your lips

Will cease even at their point of origin, and in time

The neurons which held these lofty sentiments

Science, Truth, Art

Will flow like dirty worms beyond the hollowed skull.

Alas, poor Yorick* will remain as inky lines or bits of code

But will not penetrate the sod or human clay,

Nor yet as muffled plaint beneath the grave.


And all our differences won’t make a difference

What with all the tomorrows that we won't see hereafter.*

Language, culture, music, words, indeed, are weak.*

Belief itself -- Pascal’s to bet or not to bet -- *

Mean nothing to the giant rocks that drift and spin

Like a billion circus tops on fire,

At hundreds of kilometres a second toward the Norma Cluster,

Toward the mysterious anomaly,

Ominously called the Great Attractor. *


If ever our Phoebus arrives within a hundred light year’s sight

Of that Charybdis and Scylla waiting in the stars,

What cities will we have constructed by then?

What gravitronic mechanisms to reverse galactic pull and cluster fuck?

What ancient pluck will lift us from our gopher tunnels to become as ants?

When black and red, as aliens meet beyond our sun,

What worlds of light and air will we have then to make him run?*


* Notes - Alas, poor YorickLooking at the skull of his beloved jester, Hamlet says, Alas, poor Yorick! [...] Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? (Hamlet 5.1). - all the tomorrows that we won't see hereafter: Having destroyed all meaning in his life, Macbeth says, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time. Life becomes an absurd drama full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (Macbeth 5.5). - music, words, indeed, are weak: In stanza 52 of Adonais(1821), Shelley writes that all human expressions, including words and music, are weak / the glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak. - to bet or not to bet: Pascal argues that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by believing in (or betting on) God; In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet wonders if he should kill himself in his famous speech, "To be or not to be." - to make him run?: In "To His Coy Mistress" (c.1650), Andrew Marvell suggests that the act of love might allow us to control time: Let us tear our pleasures through rough strife / Through the iron gates of life. / Thus, though we cannot make our sun stand still / Yet we will make him run. The Great Attractor is "an apparent gravitational anomaly in intergalactic space at the center of the local Laniakea Supercluster [of galaxies], in which the Milky Way is located" (Wikipedia). The Great Attractor lies near the centre of the Norma Supercluster of galaxies, toward which our local group of galaxies are moving; the Norma Supercluster in turn seems to be moving toward the Shapley Supercluster. 



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