November 22

George Eliot (b. 1819)

 

“An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent…”

— George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter XXVII

 

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Whichever way you scratch the surface, your actions lie at the center of the apocalypse.

Consider:

 

– The vote you cast in a recent election, national or local, not necessarily for a candidate but for a policy referendum you hadn’t bothered to research.  You #2-penciled the wrong bubble or clicked the wrong touchscreen box, setting the stage for later chaos.

 

– The envelope you received from a worthy charity.  If everyone responded, each person giving only a few easily-spared dollars, a major social crisis would have been averted.  You threw the envelope, unopened, into the trashcan.  That same day, you spent $4.95 on a cup of coffee.

 

– The plastic rings you were too busy to recycle drifted down a local stream, gathering fish and eels in each of the six unyielding loops, strangling them as their bodies expanded and overlapped to become a dreadful multi-headed mutant that slithered from polluted waters and sought revenge upon careless humankind.

 

– Recall the unkind remark you made to a childhood friend or recent coworker — about weight or hair color or mispronounciation of  a word (“unique” with 3 syllables).  That remark makes your friend/coworker insecure, causing their own mistakes in the voting booth, with charities or at the recycle bin, in their social interaction, and on and on.

 

So when you ask about the apocalypse, Was it something I said?  Something I did?…the clear answer is, Yes.

Hold the candle over your past indiscretions.  The flame highlights a scratched web of lines that reveal how everything is connected.  The flame is radioactive.