When life looks dire – say, like it does today for certain reasons – I try to remind myself that there are forces in nature and the universe that make every single one of humanity's triumphs and mistakes seem as noteworthy as a gnat bite on a rhinoceros' butt.
I know. This brand of cutesy platitude isn't a huge help to individuals who are in danger of losing rights they fought for. Even I'm finding it hard to be my usual bad-ass chill self; I'm the granddaughter of a Nazi death camp survivor, and seeing minorities get the blame for economic hardships feels like watching the opening credits to a sequel for an awful, awful movie.
But I'm not given over to hopelessness by a long shot. These are only the opening credits, after all. There's still plenty of time to say "Ew, this movie sucks," and change the channel.
For now, though? There are a lot of sad people in the world, and they have every right to feel downcast. And although the "power of nature / vastness of the universe" sentiment might be twee and useless, it personally gives me some comfort.
I'll go ahead and ask your forgiveness for talking about video games at such a heavy time, but I may as well bring them up. They comfort me too, and I figure at least some of our readers are currently in the mood to snuggle with their favorite adventure.
I noticed a funny thing as the news went from bad to worse last night, however: I wasn't pulled towards any of my usual comfort games, e.g. Secret of Mana, Symphony of the Night, Skyrim, or ActRaiser. Instead, the game I feel most compelled to play today is Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII is a well-worn game in my library, but it's not necessarily on the top tier of my comfort game library. But I quickly figured out why Cloud's journey currently resonates with me, and it has to do with that twee stuff I mentioned earlier about nature's callous strength.
Final Fantasy VII's story is all over the place, but this much is made clear: The powerful, the corrupt, can disappear in the blink of an eye if circumstances allow it. Even demagogues who answer every problem with "Screw the rules, I have money" are helpless to throw wads of cash at tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods. Sure, they can finance reconstruction in some instances, but when the earth decides to tear down what humankind has made, all any of us can do is step aside and watch.
Final Fantasy VII's ending has a scene wherein Shinra headquarters – one of the game's most imposing, threatening structures – is ripped apart like wet carboard by Meteor, and by the essence of the planet itself. When we see Red XIII and his cubs visit the remnants of Shinra and Midgar hundreds of years into the future, the area is completely overgrown. The hum of traffic, motors, and human civilization is replaced by the chatter of birds and other wildlife.
In fact, until Square-Enix slopped spoonfuls of supplementary story content onto Final Fantasy VII's universe (siiigh), there's no clear indication humanity survived the events of the game's climax. It's implied the planet regarded our presence as a threat and did away with us. Sure, the faint laughter that marks the very last seconds of the game indicates we probably survived, but there's zero doubt Shinra was decimated. All that power, all that money, all those plans – none of it mattered. It became rust and dust in the end.
Again, though, mulling over sentiments like "power corrupts, but it fades like everything else" won't fix the immediate problems certain to crop up as the free world's fellowship drops by degrees. Women will suffer. Minorities will suffer. No amount of philosophizing about our mortality will change that.
Thankfully, Final Fantasy VII has other lessons about being decent, warm, and human through dark times. Barret raises his friend's daughter after his misplaced trust in Shinra leaves her orphaned. Tifa stays by Cloud's side after his dip in the lifestream shatters his mind seemingly beyond repair. And Jesse, Biggs, Wedge, and Barret all learn that righteous ideals aren't worth much if they harm innocent people.
All we can do for now is learn, grow, and strive to be kind. If we can take care of each other as well as the members of an average JRPG party, we'll probably get through whatever comes next.