Humanity’s End, in Poetry and Prose

salton_sea
Photo by Marcus Price. Used without permission.

At the oldest university in the English-speaking world, a small team is searching out threats to humanity’s future. In his essay for Aeon Magazine, Ross Andersen introduces us to philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, whose job is to figure out what is most likely to exterminate humanity.

Only 100 years ago, but in a completely different human epoch, German poet Rainer Maria Rilke also thought about humanity’s end. He wrote about it in a poem called Dear Darkening Ground:

Dear darkening ground,
you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,
perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour

and grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor—let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven,

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.

Just give me a little more time!
I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they’re worthy of you and real.