Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The End of Things

I like wisdom as much as the next person, but it has always niggled me that dead people's words tend to have a certain cultural weight to them. Casual witticisms from Mark Twain and Albert Einstein have been transformed over time into Very Profound Thought. What's that all about? We say all kinds of stuff throughout our lives, much of it nonsense or filler. But as soon as we die, <pop!> there's meaning to be had.

But then I started looking at death merely as an end, among other ends and endings. The end of a book or movie is when we attempt to digest what we've just experienced. The frame of a photograph ends what we know to be a much wider canvass. Even a simple sentence experiences death in the form of a period.

What? You don't believe me?

First let me say that I'm not saying the end of a sentence is the same thing as dying. Obviously, it's not. But something is triggered by their finality. Something clicks. I don't profess to know why that something happens, but I know it's happening just the same.

Close a book, and you're still thinking about it. Finish a movie, and, especially if it's a good one, you want to hash out just what was happening all along. The end of a scene or chapter generates a similar effect. You're not getting any more information. The book, the movie, the scene, the chapter... they're finished. But their ending gives you permission to look into them more closely. The end invites scrutiny.

There's an infinite amount of information in all directions, but ends, edges, frames, dust jackets, fades to black - these are the tools that invite comprehension. The meaning has been there all along. We just need the occasional reminder to look for it.