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Monday, August 10, 2009

FAR Future, Episode 100: The Final Vision

One. Hundred. Kind of amazing, isn’t it? And we’re not (quite) finished…

Friday, June 23, 2045
The Final Vision

That much closer, I guess. I’m glad this is the last one; they kept getting worse.

In my dream, I stood in a long-abandoned city. The sky was this burnt brown color, and the sun barely made its way through. Nevertheless, it was hot. I was surrounded by mounds of what looked like lumpy dirt at first; when I looked closer I saw that it was the trash of ages, slowly returning to the earth from whence it came. The quiet nearly hurt my ears… no wind whispered, no bugs buzzed around. I didn’t even see a roach.

I started walking. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to walk around the trash heaps, so I tried walking over them. They were soft, and I sank sometimes halfway to my knees, but I somehow made progress. Each step stirred up the trash, releasing odors of decay, but somehow old and weak. Down the street, between the crumbling skyscrapers, the sea turned city blocks into an archipelago of square islands. The water called to me, as always, so I waded through the garbage toward the filthy new shoreline.

The Prophet was waiting for me near the water, perched on the remnants of a crumbling pedestal. Things bobbed in the murky water, things I didn’t want to look at too closely. An oily film covered the water, and it was on everything that the water had touched. “Here we are, at the end of all things,” he said.

“This was the worse fate you warned me about,” I said, pretty sure I was right. “So we nuked each other over the oil? Or some other resource?”

He shook his head. “No. A nuclear war would have been a lesser harm to the earth. After the first few bombs, the command and network structures would have failed and they could not have launched more. The world would have cooled, then healed.”

“So what happened?”

“This is the endpoint of humanity’s deepest wish: that the party would never end. This is what would have happened had we been given unlimited energy resources: we would have choked and drowned in our own waste. And we would have destroyed nearly everything else.”

“But maybe some of the people got into space?”

He nodded. “Of course. With boundless energy, launching a space colony would have been a small matter. The difficult part, at which they failed, was to make it self-sustaining. Each year, their population grows a little smaller. Each year, the dwindling food supply is barely enough to feed even the lessened numbers. Each year, more of their machinery stops. The spares are gone, and none of them know how to craft replacements. In a few years, the colony will fail and the last human will go to her final reward.”

I wiped a tear away. “But we were saved from this fate — by the very limits we strained against?”

“Truly. In a body, an unlimited growth is called a cancer. Even cancer is not unlimited though: when the host dies, the cancer dies as well.”

“So why do you show me this vision? If we could not come this far, what’s the point?”

He stepped down, dipped a clear glass into the gunk, and handed it to me. “The Living Water.”

“You’re kidding,” I said. “Drink this?”

He gave me the “get with it” look. “What was Peter told in his vision?”

I laughed. “What God has called clean, you shall not call unclean.” And as I spoke, the murk sank to the bottom of the glass and disappeared, leaving the water looking and smelling (and tasting) pure and sweet.

The Prophet smiled. “But you asked about the point of this: even now, there are those who believe we can return to what they might call the ‘glory days,’ without the understanding of what they wish for. Tell them of this vision, that they might put aside their folly and work within the world that The Lord has given them.

“But come, I show you a mystery.” He held out his hand. I took it, and we were… elsewhere. A mountaintop, where the brown sky was closer and darker. There was no trash here, only rocks streaked with soot and whatever else the rain carried out of the sky. A few gnarled trees dotted the summit. “What do you see?”

“Rocks. Stunted trees.”

He crouched next to one of the rocks. “Look closer.”

I did, and saw it: a tiny patch of green, with a few bright yellow specks, sheltered under the rock. The rock itself was split above the plant, and I saw that much of the rain that fell on that side of the rock would be carried down that split to the plants. A tiny insect, maybe a gnat, lit on one yellow spot or another, making the thin stalks nod and bob.

“And there.” He pointed toward another rock, where a small thin creature, maybe a mouse or vole, nibbled at something.

“So there’s still life.”

“Yes. The Lord does not throw away His creation lightly. There are other islands of life, in other parts of the wide world. In time, as the earth heals, they will expand and evolution will bring forth diversity and perhaps intelligence.”

“But… this world is imaginary, I thought?”

Again, the Prophet gave me the “get with it” look. “What The Lord has imagined is no less real than the world in which you live. But you will understand this, and will know the answers to all things, soon enough. Go now. Go in peace and in joy. I will greet you when you find your way to Heaven.”

Again the jumble, but I think I finally understood what it was. I had been right: it was both chaos, and beyond my comprehension. What I saw was a parade of possible worlds, too quick to catch and hold any single one — and about as useful as ignoring the beach to study a single grain of sand.

When I awoke this time, I was again hot and thirsty. But perhaps I understand better: my spirit, which is the actual me for which my old body is only a container, had actually gone to that other place — that impossible world of unlimited energy and unlimited destruction. Even in my youth, my physical body may not have been able to withstand the toxic soup our desires would have made of the air in that world, but the spirit is less concerned with physical matters. Now I was simply warmer than usual on the sleeping porch.

So that’s that. I don’t expect to keel over today or this week, but I hoofed it over to the center and sent my vitals in. They told me I’m doing fine for being 86… I’ll bet they say that to all the geezers, though. I suppose the only thing to do, and I’m sure The Prophet would agree, is to enjoy whatever time I’ve got left.



  1. Enjoying one's time is very good advice. Well done.

    I'm very interested in reading the next installment, Far.

  2. Mmm .. love the metaphor of seeing the different futures. Could not agree more about the ultimate end of the story of what we would do if we had unlimited amounts of energy at our disposal. As it is, it's probably a blessing for the earth (and for us too) that the FF adventure will soon be coming to an end.

    Fossil fuels were just the excess sugar that caused us to outgrow the limits of our petri dish, which we had hitherto safely inhabited since time immemorial. Hopefully we can safely return to lower & more stable populations.

    Great stuff :)

  3. Hi Nudge!

    Glad you liked it. The whole point, of course, is that we have the ability to achieve that safe return. Perhaps we'll do it, like in FAR Future, because it's really the only (or easiest) choice we have.

  4. Far, I would really think that downsizing is the only choice left to us. The alternative is – well, not to exist. If it comes down to it, I would prefer that we have some living descendants (even if they never jet to the left coast, trade stocks, drive cars, or get expensive college educations) rather than us be exterminated or gone extinct.

    Unfortunately our natural tendency seems to be to pull an Easter Island or a Norse Greenland, at least when we're geographically bounded.

  5. True that… this time, the geographic bound is the entire world — and unlike the Rapa Nui or Greenland folk, we have more information (including the above two counter-examples) and the ability to transport information and physical goods much faster than the ancients.

    I think, in the end, we won't bother going to war over the last of the oil. People started saying "screw it" when it hit $4/gal last year; when it's $44/gal there won't be much enthusiasm for getting more of it.

    I've outlined three scenarios, depicted in the "FAR Manor 2058" series (links in the top right) — I want to return to the second "Crash and Burn" scenario, the one featuring Old Guy, but the muse will send me there when she's good & ready.

  6. Hey FAR!! It's been a long time since I have been here. Hoping all is well on Planet Georgia! I have just finally, slowly, started coming back to the world after a rather life-shattering-changing-evolving kind of year or so that I have had.

    I had to catch up on reading FAR Future and got to this episode. Some of the things you have been saying got me to thinking (WOW my brain really does work-sort of-after it's hibernation in moth balls.) Humanity dying out because of our trash got me thinking of global warming. But that track started earlier today when I was watching the news regarding the BP Spill and how they are "burning" off the oil and seeing those nasty plumes of black smoke. They say these are measures to help get rid of some of the oil to lessen the effects on our shorelines. Hmmmm, now what about the effects on our air? That got me to thinking about Climate Change. Almost like my mind went into hyper-drive today. It seems the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities. Hmmm, go figure!

    Anyways, just adding in my 2 cents worth after all this time!


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