Eternal End

The End.

It seems a good way to start a blog. The end tells us a lot. It signals that something is over, has ceased to be. It underlines and crosses it off. Finished. Done. Move on.

The end also reflects upon what has been, since it is a deliberate statement of conclusion. Something has gone before, be it a book or a life, and now it is no more. It has said what it wanted to, or was given time to say; its personal dialogue has been silenced. It can be talked about and discussed by others who are still scrolling through the previous pages, but they will all, eventually, turn the final page and see a blank white sheet with ‘the end’ stamped on it in bold, indomitable letters. For in the end, there is always an end. It will triumph, because nothing is infinite. There is no forever in this universe.

All things come to an end. That’s not to say all things die, since the vast majority of everything was not alive in the first place. A rock cannot die, so to say that the universe will die is to anthropomorphise it, to transform it into some greater presence; a godly collection of gasses and darkness. So the Universe will end, many trillions of years from now, as the cosmos expands and cools, the last dwarf stars having burnt what remained of their dwindling fuel and a perpetual blackness descending upon an already bleak and lifeless chasm, clouded with the ashes of stars. It will take trillions of more years until everything cools to the same freezing temperature, and then the universe will fall still. Nothing will ever happen again.

Or will it end earlier? Is the end the death of life or the death of ‘things?’ What is the universe when it’s not interpreted by curious life forms, be they humans or whatever else is undoubtedly out there in the vast complexity of the universe? We are the universe’s eyes and ears; it cannot rationalise or interpret itself. Without life, the universe will not exist. Not in any meaningful way. Something vast and magnificent, yet senseless and unknown. Like a great work of art displayed in a black pit; it may as well be a crayon sketch. It takes humanity to flash a light on it, to give it meaning. We view the universe from the inside as separate beings, and yet are dependent on it for everything. All we are and all we have are gifts from the cosmos. It is us, and we are it. Inseparable.

So the Universe will end, will cease to be interpreted. We are merely a by-product of a series of events which have been in motion for 13.75 billion years, events that will continue to evolve until they end. There will then simply be an absence. A void. The blank space after the end. Something I’m not sure it’s even possible for us to comprehend.

Donnia Italia, a freed slave who died at a time when Helios was thought to drive the sun across the sky with his chariot, had an epitaph inscribed on her tomb by her former masters. ‘I was not, I was, I am not…’1

We, life, will one day not be. And that is when the universe will truly end.

1Hope V.M. (ed.) (2007) Death in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook, Abingdon, Routledge