Tuesday, November 24

Column: The end of the world, without going any further

El favorite number of your child is “more.” In the mornings, when you walk into his bedroom and break the darkness by raising the blinds, he refuses to wake up from sleep. If the time has come to interrupt the games he invents aloud, absorbed, he resists irreducibly in his imaginary village. He clings tooth and nail to happy moments, always imploring “a little more.” He wants to live in a world without end, again and again he rebels against the ephemeral.

You too have felt that fear of the endings that living requires: moving empty houses, lost jobs, orphans and sudden absences, exhausted loves. In stormy times, between drastic changes and abrupt destruction, terror shakes us and the skies threaten to collapse over our heads. Since the beginning of time, almost all peoples have harbored their idea of ​​the end of the world. The stories are many and varied. It seems that, in an early decentralization, apocalyptic powers were transferred to each culture: we will extinguish together, but each in our own way. Human creativity displayed an endless arsenal of battles, armageddon, ragnaröks, books of seven seals, plagues and dragons. Guillermo Fatás counts on World’s End that the inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, believe that a great earthquake will destroy the Earth and the bridge to heaven; then souls will congregate and live without their main scourges: sickness, death and — strikingly — marriage. For their part, the Semang pygmies of Malaysia predict that the goddess Yapudeu will spit great storms until causing a deluge that will gather the bones of the dead, and a battalion of mud-smeared zombies will abandon their graves.

In the Mediterranean traditions, the ancient Egyptians described with awe a cosmic disaster: an abyss will engulf the world, the sun will cease to shine. On that day, the gods will place the heart of each deceased on a scale and, on the other pan, an ostrich feather. If the heart is just, it will weigh less than the pen. Those who have weighed their acts with greed or abuse will suffer annihilation. The most ethereal will forever dwell in the kingdom of Osiris, where the Milky Way becomes the celestial Nile.

Dystopias cyberpunk of our science fiction are, in reality, young heirs of those ancient mythologies of the future. Both emerge in moments of crisis, when fear grips us, drawing a tomorrow ravaged by terrible calamities. All the eschatological tales, from the final judgment on a Romanesque doorway carved with wicked demons to the nuclear cataclysm of a post-apocalyptic film, are warnings about the dilemmas of the present. They announce these debacles as the catastrophic result of our wrong decisions: moral, environmental, scientific, political, warlike.

Under the unfolding of hecatombs, an optimistic message beats in every prophetic legend. We are the past of that future, and we still have time to prevent disasters from ruining the world. It is no coincidence that the Statue of Liberty has become an icon of the genre. His silhouette, half buried at the end of the classic Planet of the Apesby Franklin J. Schaffner, or immersed in Artificial intelligence, by Steven Spielberg, underlines the moral of millennial fables: posterity will depend on how we use our freedom today. The real cataclysm – and its possible solution – is us. Anubis, the jackal god who extracts the still beating hearts of the dead to weigh, and the downcast women of The maid’s taleby Margaret Atwood, they whisper the same secret to us in different languages: certain nonsense of our free will produce monsters. The catastrophes to come are nightmares from which we can still awaken. From the dawn of fear — as old as childhood — from the earliest civilizations, we have always wanted to look beyond. The future is our oldest dream.

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