Friday, 21 December 2012

A Very Small Apocalypse

Apocalyptic is seductive, attractive, simple.

It comes  in many forms. The wild creatures of John the Divine; the smudged, worn-out glyphs of the Maya; the expectations of aliens; the scientific hypotheses and scary graphs of climate change, as picked up in the mass-media. And it's polyvalent - the Beast can be a thousand oppressors, down a thousand ages.

But there's a common thread in there.  Apocalyptic is a critique of the world as it is. Apocalyptic says that chaos is increasing. Men and women (mostly men) do evil. The poor get poorer; the rich become richer. Human souls are oppressed so that a few may benefit. A left-brained, progressive, social revolutionary would say that things are wrong and something must be done.

But they can't be put right in the normal course of things, says Apocalyptic. Our society is broken, not just fractured. The remedy is not evolution, nor revolution - it is revelation.

And so the beasts of the Revelation of John are thrown into the fire. Mountains split open, revealing aliens, who hop out to carry us to their celestial Jerusalem. Mesoamericans forecast the Age of Aquarius - yet again. Triffids stalk the land, throwing humanity back to a simpler life of good vs evil - man vs oil-bearing plant. Heaven and earth pass away, to be replaced by new and improved models.

It's simple, it's encouraging. And if you're an oppressed group with no help but God against your oppressor, it can keep you going a long time. And if you're a middle-class hippy with a desire to opt out, it's just wishful thinking.

"Apocalypse", of course, means "Revelation". Something you didn't expect, which you had to be shown. Not a thing you could work out from first principles. A world gone to hell receives a saviour - not a mighty warrior-elf-king, but the baby of an unmarried lower-middle-class girl from a captive race. He doesn't storm in; he sneaks in. He isn't surrounded by flunkies, pressmen and private doctors - he's met by shepherds and pagan foreigners, and chased out of town by a jealous rival.

Just half a stone of human flesh - snuck into the world while everyone was looking the other way. Meaning nothing, yet meaning everything. Changing nothing, but changing the world, one life at a time. Bringing infinity into the length of a child; the timeless, unimaginable depths of God into a human life cut short.  A very small apocalypse.

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