Bangs and Whimpers and Silence

At the G7 Summit

“The world will go on without us,” one of my Facebook Friends wrote.  She was responding to another FF’s lament about the current political climate in the world – specifically, how our allies are perceiving us since the G7 meeting in Canada.

I think I understand what she meant – sort of a “this too will pass” statement.  But it was a statement that, for me, came hard on the heels of a very hard month.  Our community has been blind-sided by the deaths of three well-known and much-beloved people and we have recently learned of the serious health problems of two others of our friends.  “Without us” seems all too personal and imminent.

And, of course, I can’t help wonder if the world will, indeed, go on.  Yes, it always has – no matter what horrors humanity has brought upon itself – genocides and pandemics and holocausts going back to our beginnings.  But now, the very Earth, itself, appears to be in jeopardy – climate change, nuclear stockpiling, rampant environmental tampering.  And the list goes on.

North Korean Missiles

People my age worry (or at least say they do) about their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren in one breath and in the next say, “…but I won’t be around to see it happen.”  My parents and grandparents said the same and no doubt those sentiments came along with the first-ever human DNA.   But, it truly does seem as though the stakes are impossibly high right now.

The hard part is knowing what to do about it.  “Speak out!  Be involved!  Have difficult discussions!” is the advice we hear.  Or… we can just re-read “The Hollow Men” by T. S. Elliott and think about the final stanza:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

T. S. Elliott

Elliott wrote the poem in 1925.  I find it interesting that when he was asked, years later, if he would end the poem in the same way, he said “No.”   He said that while the association of the H-bomb is irrelevant to the poem, he felt that it would come to everyone’s mind.  He was not sure the world would end with either a bang or a whimper.  People whose houses were bombed had told him that they didn’t remember hearing anything.

So, perhaps we should revisit the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkle’s “The Sound of Silence.”  Especially the third stanza:

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence


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