Thursday, March 3, 2011

The End of Time

Yesterday was one year to the day of my first post. I can't say that it marks a full year of The Fall, because society took a bit to really crumble. I've tried to make it a point to mark the passing of holidays and events since the zombie plague swept across the earth and broke humanity, but it's getting harder to hold on to old things. I've seen a change in human behavior and civilization that can only be described in orders of magnitude, so trying to mention all the things that used to matter when they come up seems like so much crying over spilled milk.

People have pointed out many times since The Fall that at least here at the compound, we've taken dangerous steps toward repeating the very mistakes we'd sworn to avoid. I look at how things are done right this second, with no single leader in charge but orders from the council being obeyed absolutely, and I wonder about democracy. Is it the best choice for us at this point? I've seen with my own eyes how well a benign dictatorship can work. The people of North Jackson have that, and it's kept them alive and prosperous. Then again, the people here lean more toward individualism. The difference being that most of the folks that live in NJ have been there almost from the start. Ours have been all over the place, and most of them had to fight like nine kinds of hell to get here.

The anniversary slipped right by me, though I did think about it a few hours after I posted yesterday. I considered writing something about it, but it just didn't seem like that big a deal. Yeah, a year has come and gone. So what? Why should that matter to us? We have to deal with necessities. We measure our time in what we need to do, and if we have the hours or days to do it. It seems pretty arbitrary for us to be concerned with the fact that a calender year has passed. That in itself has no significance. I'd rather think about the time since The Fall in terms of what we've done, and how far we have to go.

In those terms, our struggle has far more meaning. In a year, we've had the world tumble down around our ears. We've managed to build a sustainable living situation that is mostly safe. We've lost our home and gotten it back. We've managed to innovate in several ways, and to teach ourselves new (and old) ways of doing things. We've changed from a pampered group of modern people, used to the ease of buying food and trash collection, into a rugged and experienced troop of survivors strong enough to hunt our meals and defend our way of life, and hard as coffin nails when the need arises.

OK, I'll admit that last line was a bit over the top. I'm proud as hell of what we've done here, so allow me a little artistic license. Overwritten it might be, it's still the truth. We have a long, long way to go before our community is what it is capable of being, but how far we've already traveled down that path is no laughing matter.

I guess we'll evolve along like any society. We'll have to change and adapt new social norms and customs, holidays and stigma just like groups of people have always done. It's my hope that we can continue to be self aware enough to continue to put aside differences and not fall into the rut of deadlocked ideas when the fat is truly in the fire. So far we've done well. We've always done what needed to be done, and taken up our arguments when everyone was safe again.

I'd like to think that Will being allowed to live is a step in the right direction. What we've done to him is basically slavery, but the choice was his. He could have chosen death, but instead he made the decision to see how the life of a pariah fit him. It's cruel and demeaning. It wears away at his spirit. It's a fall.

But it's life. We had every moral justification for ripping him to shreds. A few months ago I think it would have happened regardless of what the judgment was. Since the occupation, though, I have the feeling that more and more people here have learned to reserve a part of themselves against preconceived notions. I think that as a whole, we are more willing to listen to reason and judge on an individual basis. I'm profoundly happy that Will is alive, because every minute he breathes is a chance to prove his worth. Every day is an opportunity for him to make up for some of the damage he did. I have to liken it to something my brother Dave once said to me when I was young, a thing I have never forgotten.

I'd asked him how long eternity was. I think I was about seven at the time, and was just beginning to wrap my head around huge abstracts. I'd read the term in a book of his, and I wanted to get some idea of the scope of the thing.

Dave explained to to me thus:

A man with a feather walks up to a massive granite boulder, swiping the feather across it lightly. He does this but once every thousand years, each time wearing down the boulder so slightly as to almost not have happened. One atom at a time, perhaps. When the boulder is dust, my brother told me, the amount of time that had passed wouldn't even begin to touch how long eternity was.

I've since gained a good education in physics and other sciences, so I have a better grasp on what the infinite really is. But I've always liked that explanation, because it manages to easily use one sense of scope to describe another. You've probably seen the point here---Will's actions from here on out are the feather, his sins the boulder. I don't know that it will ever happen, but at least he has a chance to wear down that rock. A few months ago, we'd have just crushed him with it.

How far have we come, and how far do we have to go? It's not about time anymore. It isn't the seconds and minutes, the days and the years. It's about the seasons, and the food we grow. It's about birthing babies and watching love blossom. It's about providing haven for those that wish it, and simply providing for those that need it. It's about moving forward always, not toward some false ideal that was lost in The Fall, but toward whatever it is that we should be. Toward what we will be. No preconceived notions, only an eventual reality.

That is how long it's been for us. The distance traveled in lives and hopes. That is how far we have to go. A future where lives are safe and hopes are realized. How long it takes is unimportant.

The journey there is the forge that shapes us.

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