Dial Tone


When life goes extinct and the Earth gets overwhelmed, all that will be left in the Universe is a dial tone.

Not a ringtone—the rhythm of a ringtone indicates a potential connection between two people—but the empty constant of a line disconnected. The sound of picking up the earpiece of an ancient public phone and refusing to put any money in.

There are many people focused on extending the time before that final dial tone, doing everything in their power to give us an extra few decades or years or months of our lives.

I admire these warriors more than anyone else. It’s easy to see why we should fight for every second we have. For ourselves, for our children, for every speck of life we share this great floating rock with.

At the same time, there is a universe of difference between prolonging and preventing; we’ll still all be gone one day. It’s harder to justify why we should still make things—if they’ll all be consigned to the empty dial tone of a frozen universe, with nobody around to remember them, what’s the point?

In our culture, we erect great pedestals of our ‘Classics’, art that has inspired across generations and outlived its artist. We give value to work that lasts, work that influences, work that seems almost eternal. Would Shakespeare or Picasso or Mozart’s work have been as treasured if we didn’t know about it? It almost seems a silly question.

What value does influence have in the context of an eternity of silence? When there are no longer struggling writers to inspire, or visionaries who look to the giants’ shoulders they stand upon, what is the point of lasting? It’s easy to feel bone-deep nihilism about creating, about what the point is of having a point at all. The political analysis, the insightful allegory, the philosophical exploration, every ingredient that makes your art ‘meaningful’ or ‘important’ will be just as much space dust as you and me and all the rest of us.

Why sing a song for others to hear if the last thing ever heard will be the arrhythmia of a dial tone?

It’s easy to forget how freeing true nihilism can be, if you can put the right spin on it. We’re not going to last forever! Neither will the things we make, even if they outlive us to the point of eclipsing our names, the histories of our lives, our wants and desires. Greensleeves will die along with the rest of us. What’s the point then?

The point is every second that comes before that final moment. Every disruption to that dial tone, every potential for conversation. What we make might not have an eternal point, but at the end of the day, art is communication; if we’re to sit around waiting for everything to fizzle out, we may as well shout over that dial tone as much as we can. If you can bring a smile to one person’s face by making something, or pull a single tear from someone else, then your art—your ef ort—has purpose.

What makes art unique isn’t its ability to have a ‘point’ or offer commentary. Those may be some of its strengths, but there are other ways to engage with moral and social issues, or to engage with personal philosophies. The reason we create is to share our creations with people, even if that act of sharing is fleeting. Even if the moment is forgotten—especially then.

So roll out of bed, make something beautiful, and show it to people. Dial a number, any number, and have that conversation for as long as you can. Keep that dial tone at bay.

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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