Evanston RoundTable, Jan. 25, 2018
The sun winked out.
Not from a passing cloud, not from a sudden storm, not from a rose-hued sunset. It just vanished, without warning, without a sound, quick as the snap of a finger.
Humanity had no notion, at first. It takes 500 seconds for gravity’s reach and the sun’s rays to hit the planet. But specially designed solar probes registered the event, and sent back a single, dire pronouncement: #sun gone!!!
The first reaction was disbelief. Equipment malfunction! Human error! Fake news!
But it was soon clear the probe was working and the signals were accurate and irrefutable: after four-and-a-half billion years, the sun was gone. The last rays of life-giving light and gravity were now speeding to Earth. There were just a few minutes left.
People poured into the streets to howl, weep, and scream, to beat their chests and shake their fists.
How could this be? Why now?
Bitterly they railed: if there had to be an end time, why should it come during my lifetime?
But none of these thoughts made any difference. Unmoved by the public demonstrations, light and life were streaming to an end. As that reality sank in, people made frantic efforts to reach their loved ones—to make amends, to tell them goodbye, to ask forgiveness, to hug them and say, “I love you.”
Then a strange thing happened. Everyone began to realize how unimportant most of their concerns had been. What seemed so serious and profound before now seemed trivial and inconsequential.
Why were we so worried about the color of people’s skin, the religion they professed, the identity of their gender or the status of their citizenship papers? Why did we argue about who spent what money or failed to take out the garbage or walk the dog? Why weren’t we more focused on fighting poverty, healing disease and divisiveness, stewarding the planet, and supporting and helping each other?
In the final moments people began to reflect on their fondest memories—family vacations, glorious rainbows, shared laughter, long and lovely walks, the beauty of nature and the power and glory of art.
Of course, this scenario could never happen. The drone’s signal and the sun’s demise would arrive simultaneously. The world would be plunged into darkness before anyone knew what was taking place, temperatures would begin to plummet, and the Earth, our moon and all the other objects in the solar system, released from the sun’s gravitational grip, would fly off into space.
And thus would end humanity’s brief and thrilling adventure.
But in a sense, the end times are already close at hand. Everyone has a date with mortality. We will always need to make amends, to regain our sense of proportion, to act on our best instincts, to take time for nature and art, and to tell those dear to us, “I love you.”
Do it before the sun goes down.