The Apocalypse

I have to chuckle when I think about how much time I’ve spent worrying about the end of the world. From the time I was a teenager, no before that even, I was filled with the sense of it. It’s no wonder, really, back then we had the Cold War going on. Nuclear missiles were literally pointed at us, pretty much on a hair trigger. I can remember going out into my backyard circa 1975 and wondering what the sky would look like when the missiles came. Would there be contrails? I can’t really blame myself. The adults in the room weren’t about to stop me. They were making too much money and having too much of a good time building the post World War II world to notice how freaked out their children were becoming. What I have to do now is to be honest with myself about what it all means now.

Perhaps it would help for me to elaborate on my current perspective. There are all kinds of worries and dangers, most of them legitimate, but the end of the world is not coming. There are a few things that got me to this point in my thinking. The first was probably when I realized that God was not going to send anybody to hell. It had always troubled me that all apocalyptic thinking and rhetoric seemed to drive the true message of God away. It especially bothered me that otherwise rational religious people seemed to wrap themselves in it to the exclusion of other things that mattered more, even to the point of advocating things like violence or judgment against people who needed exactly the opposite. Put two and two together and you can see the same sort of thinking at work in the thinking of Christian Right hate groups. The selfishness that this sort of self-indulgence speaks to is so soothing that it becomes very hard to love. Well, very easy to say you love, but a lot harder to actually do it.

I got into this argument with this person at work the other day over this sort of thing. This right wing Christian man was actually trying to advocate for torture, to justify it in the name of the safekeeping of our society. I said to him, “So, what happened to, ‘if your enemy compels you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two’ or ‘if your enemy slaps you on one cheek, turn to him the other one also’?” He looked at me kind of shocked. I said to him, “You know who said that, don’t you?” That didn’t stop him. It didn’t matter that I told him tortured people will eventually tell you exactly what you want to hear, even if they haven’t got any idea what that is to begin with. Can you imagine how much torture and pain was behind all of those color coded alert levels we were all subjected to during all of those years after 9-11? There is no substitute for effective, organized, procedural and determined police work in the battle against evil. Shortcuts like torture are a panacea. The application of science is very effective at figuring out the truth.

The only way to put down memes is to tell the truth. Now, we can run on here and get into a conversation about American imperialism and its lasting effect upon resource rich nations all across the globe, but let’s not. That’s easy enough to deduce from any list of examples. Instead, let’s talk about the Devil. Who is the Devil, this huge and devouring being blamed for so much evil in the world? Who is this being said to currently rule the world, the one who could offer the reign of it to Jesus after he spent 40 days fasting?

It may or may not surprise you that the Devil is us. We collectively, in the same sort of organization upon which God relies for the salvation of mankind, an organization spreading out from a center and also connected at its points, are the Devil, only our organization has at its root our human sense of good and evil rather than that of the kingdom of heaven. Images of religion fit very nicely into this paradigm. Testosterone fits very nicely into this paradigm. Darwinian survival of the fittest fits very nicely into this paradigm. Managing through bullying fits very nicely into this paradigm. Winning fits. Flashing a cash roll fits. Anger and mass delusion are well within its purview.

Some of the things that don’t fit so well, good faith negotiation for one, real altruism – where you don’t do a person a good turn expecting any reward – is another, as is giving your word and keeping it even to the point of your own defeat or loss. Not that following some internal code to the exclusion of everybody else will save you. All sorts of bombers and robbers and con-artists have done that. Neither will saying that you love others while you don’t love yourself.

It puzzles me how advocates of love talk so much about making great and robust sacrifices in the name of love, soundly against the idea of loving ourselves. Not that we shouldn’t do those things when the the moment in history calls upon us, if it does, but otherwise how are we supposed to get through life if we essentially despise ourselves. Maybe this is why so many heroes lapse into alcoholism and patterns of chronic lying amongst other misbehavior once they are taken fully from the context of their heroism and forced to try and align their new perceptions with the daily grind of life. Wouldn’t it be better for us to work on separating ourselves from any sense of our own unfounded exceptionalism? This includes making assumptions about who we would be or how we would react if we faced similar situations as others we have either heard about or imagined. The simple truth is that we can’t know what we will do. nor can we be certain that what determines that isn’t a matter of random quantum chance rather than character. You know, to discover that from our position as a node in the net of humanity we are not the center? Having discovered that, we can then begin to set about doing unto others as we would have them do unto us because we can more truly see ourselves as one like them.

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