Day 138: the end of the world

As a counterpoint to Wednesday’s slightly Pollyanna-ish paean to creation as embodied by the elder’s blocky white Minecraft turrets of Walpolian splendour, today I bring you some brief remarks in praise of destruction as embodied by (surely you’ll guess) the younger’s approach to the very same game.

I watched, rapt, this morning, as the younger navigated her Minecraft world. She had urged me to observe what happened when she blew stuff up. She systematically placed red blocks labeled “TNT” on the ground and then detonated them.

“What does TNT stand for?” I asked.

“Dynamite,” she replied.

“Oh,” I said.

Exploding the TNT blocks tore an impressive hole replete with cascading sandy rubble in the green Minecraft lawn.

“Cool,” I said.

“No, that’s not it,” she said. “Wait.”

She filled the hole with up with MORE TNT blocks and then exploded THAT. The hole grew deeper.

Down, down she went, explosion after explosion. Sandy rubble gave way to rocky rubble, which gave way in turn to dark grey rock.

I looked at her expectantly.“Not it,” she said.

The hole grew even deeper and darker, puckered with black spaces.

“There,” she said, finally, pointing to the black rectangles. “That’s the end of the world.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“It’s the end of the world in Minecraft.”

I peered more closely at the screen and saw that these black rectangles were textureless blanks, unlike all the other Minecraft blocks.

Being the duck-rabbit that I am, the black rectangles made me think of a strange 1767 short story by James Beattie, a satire of skepticism which culminates with the image of David Hume pushing unsuspecting pilgrims off a castle ramparts into a void of “utter darkness.”

“But maybe they are just really dark rocks?” I wondered aloud, looking at the black rectangles more closely.

“No,” she insisted. “They’re nothing.”

Squint as I might I couldn’t see any kind of pixilation or ripple in the black surface—somehow uncanny in Minecraft’s highly variegated terrain.

“Wow,” I said, and I did have a tiny vertiginous thrill, as if I were standing on the edge of something.

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