End Times Beginning: A Meditation on Apocalypse
1. The Mainstreaming of Apocalypse
Six months ago, the “end times” were the province of largely-fringe religious groups. Now the phrase seems to be on everybody’s lips, and not altogether ironically. The litany has become all too familiar: pandemic, unchecked police violence, raging wildfires, militia groups seeking to incite a second civil war. Electoral politics doesn’t promise any relief, as the only alternative to a sucking leadership vacuum in the White House (with a side of fascism) seems to be an attempted return to a dysfunctional, unsustainable status quo. Even assuming the lesser evil prevails, far from a given, the American empire appears to be on the brink of--another word that’s come to the fore recently--collapse.
2. We, too, are Food
Life has always been precarious. The end is always lurking in the shadows, ready to claim someone’s last breath. Yet somehow, the juvenile culture we’ve been collectively raised in and governed by has marketed a myth of invincibility, of immortality, of superiority. Masculine above the feminine. White above black. Human above animal. Rich above poor. Straight above queer. The superiority program has generated an elaborate hierarchy that justifies the casualties and the means of making them. Americans bought a bogus bill of goods based on an illusion of control, and in doing so accrued debts that may never be repaid. Now, as the economic machine falters, as friends flee their homes to become our first climate refugees, the bone-deep vulnerability of human life is being revealed. Despite our species’ inflated self-regard, we aren’t at the top of the food chain. We, too, are food for viruses, for flames, for corporate profits, for hungry ghosts.
3. Once More, the End
Metamorphosis requires the old to melt down even as the new begins to take shape. Clearly, the promise or hope of inchoate wings doesn’t make the melting any easier. The literal and metaphorical deaths that we are facing are excruciating. It’s one thing to recognize that global capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy have ravaged the earth and her people. It’s quite another to be there when the bricks start to fall. Flawed as these systems of domination are, the terrible irony is that even those exploited by them often depend on them at the same time. You can’t demolish a house while you’re living in it. The tremors we’re seeing all around us are a not-so-early warning sign, a cue to move out, to find shelter somewhere less toxic. But where to go? There’s no territory the capital-industrial beast has left unassimilated, few places left beyond the reach of money and power and the laws that bolster them. It’s as if every inch of soil has been paved over and painted with grid lines.
Still, if you look close, there are weeds pushing up through the asphalt--dandelions and even delicate crocuses.
There always are.
Pandemics and fires aren’t new; neither are fascist regimes. Many of our ancestors were living in the end times. For 2,000 years, Christians have been preaching eschatological prophecies, and many are pointing now to the Book of Revelation as they listen for the hoofbeats of the horsemen.
Yes, we’re living in end times, but not the end. The end is ongoing. So is the beginning. The snake is forever swallowing its tail.
4. Seeding Culture Through the Cracks
Dandelions and crocuses remind us that resistance and renewal don’t happen apart from the chaos of destruction, but alongside it, within it, through it. Some seeds germinate only after being scorched by fire. New structures take shape from amid the scrapheap of the old.
If you’re asking yourself what you can do in the face of apocalypse, you start by asking: Where are the cracks in the pavement? What shelter can be fashioned in the shadows of empire even as the bricks start to fall? What seeds are ready, finally, to sow?
There’s no one answer to the magnitude of catastrophe we’re facing. There are many. It will take a village, an ecosystem, a rich and diverse new culture. Already cells are multiplying.
5. Let Us Pray
May we be willing to feel deeply enough to nourish the seeds of the new with tears of heart’s blood. May all that’s being lost unleash our inner waters, beckon the rains from the sky and quench the blazes we have wrought.
May we children of earth find our place in the scheme of life. May there be balance of resource, of power, of the elements.
May the mountains of shit we’ve produced break down and fertilize the world to come.
May we be blessed with the resilience and the courage to work side by side across differences of color, of flag, of conviction.
May we honor every last breath.
-Julia Hartsell and Jonathan Edwards