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Apocalypse

"I don't want to set the world on fire. I just want to start a flame in your heart."
The Ink Spots


Does the word "Apocalypse" cause you to panic?

  1. Dude, relax.
  2. Apocalypse. not Armaggedon.
  3. Apocalypse = Revelation, something revealed.
  4. Armageddon = Global War, the thing we want to avoid.
  5. Check out my First Apocalypse.

Also, perhaps now is a good time to look at the Definition of Apocalypse.

OK, back to the topic. This page is the point of departure for looking at the Judeo-Christian-Islamic apocalyptic metaphors that saturate and endanger our time. Later, we will look at the metaphors of yet other cultures and spiritual traditions, but right now, our hands are full with our own traditions.

Why just look at religion? With or without a spiritual dimension, disaster has always been predicted for the living. This could have something to do with the fact that we live on the surface of a ball of earth spinning in outer space and are inherently vulnerable - not to mention all those years of fending off marauding hordes of visigoths and wildebeasts. Yes, some environmentalists are some of the biggest Apocalypticians around. That topic is handled on the Environmental Dilemma page (pending). Keep your topics straight. There will be a quiz.

Then there is the uncertainty principle. Great doom or great vitality have always awaited us every morning. Sometimes we are more aware of it than others. The Apocalypse stories give us the space to focus on these matters.

And we have much more choice and power than we ever realize or explore.

The plan for this page is to ASSESS the Apocalyptic stories of yore - itemize the respective prophecies from Christianity and Islam. Why? So that we can plan around it. Depending on what we want. Say you're Christian and you really want the Lord to come. So you would rejoice at certain things. Say you're Muslim and you want Mahdi to come. You would rejoice at different things. Say you don't want any of these beings to come, you would rejoice at yet other things, and pursue other policies. Such as not persecuting people for their faith, since the Tribulation is a big part of the end-times scenario, so just by being nice to Christians, for example, you can assure a long, unapocalyptic existence. I think. This is why we need to double check the prophesies before we come up with the Ajaban list of recommendations (tailored for each demographic group depending on their goals).

Yes, I see now that step one has merged into step two - developing an Apocalypse strategy for each demographic, plus a scorecard. Ideally, Ajaban will be able to display this data and keep it updated as events transpire. Yes, strategy. As with the Spiritual Dilemma page, we're taking a Schroedinger's Cat approach to religion. Which means we are assuming that all of the religions are right and wrong simultaneously, and the truth will be revealed upon death, which means therefore, we can puzzle and work out a probability table for best actions. But mostly, we want to take a pro-active, pre-emptive, de-catastrophizing, optimistic approach to Apocalypse/Armaggedon, because we think this is possible. We also think the fascination with Apocalypse is a great leveraging tool for exciting the masses to overthrow the...whoops, my secret agenda almost slipped out there.

Oh, yes, another key reason for this strategy is to make it clear what's going on and what actions benefit/oppose what outcome. This is so that one group with one set of goals doesn't accidentally blunder into producing the opposite effect of what was intended. Ooh, cryptic.

Sorry I'm not explaining this better. The theory underlying it is soon to be a major motion picture called "The Sign of Jonah" at which point it will be more comprehensible. (OK, I just threw that sentence in to create buzz and anticipation.)

But aside from the whole millenium thing and religious extremism and anything else clouding the issue, Ajaban believes the Apocalypse myth to be very useful. Remember, you don't have to be a believer to get a lot of use out of belief. Whether or not it actually works out the way your favorite Ole Time Baptist Preacher told you it would, the metaphor of Apocalypse is a wonderful tool for approaching the story of our times. OK, let me just use the word "Myth" now, and only because I want to contrast the "Apocalypse Myth" with the "Hero Myth". The "Hero Myth" as you know is this thing that is forced down the throat of all aspiring screenwriters which explains movie structure. This is the story that we here at Hollywood tell over and over again. While some people complain that Hollywood exploits the Apocalypse Myth and feeds the chaos of our times, I will demonstrate here that this isn't quite what is happening.

The Apocalypse Myth
A myth is an organizing story that attempts to superimpose narrative structure onto the mysteries of life and creation. Myths, such as the Hero Myth that Hollywood loves so much, are found in all cultures and strike a deep chord of recognition in all people. The Apocalypse Myth is a specific genre of myth that is not fully understood or exploited by Hollywood.

Most movies that seem to be Apocalypse Myths are actually only Hero Myths. They get stuck on the “end of the world” part with the threat of madness disrupting the status quo. These movies flirt with the Apocalypse Myth by bringing us to the brink of apocalypse, but revert to a purely Hero Myth when a hero (Arnold) save us, with some sacrifices. This is Apocalypse Avoidance. It pulls back from the apocalypse myth without exploring it. It doesn’t break through to the other side.

The Hero Myth is the story of the individual and his personal struggle to transcend limitations and overcome adversity. The Apocalypse Myth is the story of the collective, and our joint struggle to transcend limitations and overcome irreconcilable conflicts on a very large scale. It is something that, if done right, can reach out and connect with audiences in a healing and inspiring way during this time of crisis.

The Apocalypse Myth has three parts. The Apocalypse is only the first part. It’s the wake up call that tells us the way we’re doing it is not working for everybody, and is not sustainable.

The status quo needs a tune up. Most movies don’t get past this part. They don’t even get to this part, as primary motivation of most sane people is to preserve the status quo. After all, the status quo works for many people, (it works for me!) and is very comfortable, so why rock the boat? Especially when rocking the boat might make it worse for everyone.

The second part of the apocalypse myth is Judgment Day. Most people don’t like the idea of that at all. Yet the myth of Judgment day persists in every culture (OK, you’re right, Buddhists just have a rolling “karma” thing going on, but they live in the moment, so there doesn’t need to be a day) and is a collective fantasy. This is because we all know the world is not fair and justice is hard to come by and human justice is almost an oxymoron. The only way we can imagine justice is if God himself would come from on high to once and for all straighten things out.

In fact, Judgment Day is a misnomer. Yes, there is some judgment involved. But there's a lot more to it than that. There's a lot of healing that is linked to this. For this reason, It should be called Completion Day. You need to complete your past to become whole. The world needs to complete its past to start anew. See the first poem in "For Those Who Greive".

This completion process involves A) Expression, Confession, Judgment – finding out the truth, getting it into perspective, figuring out what’s not working and why; B) Responsibility - taking responsibility for problems and wrongs caused and attempting to correct them or to atone if it’s not correctible. C) Forgiveness - Resolution of conflict. Letting go of the past. Basically, We've got to work THROUGH the blood, see?

And what happens after you complete the past and let it go? You look to the future.

The third part of the apocalypse myth is Heaven on Earth. If you don’t believe in a deity, what this means is that once the past is complete, we can finally create the future, full of possibility, and without the baggage of the past.

Yes, this sounds like a 12 step program, which does work on an individual scale. The Apocalypse Myth has it work on a global scale and that’s why it’s a myth. That’s also why it’s always prophesied to occur on some unknowable, vague date in the future. It’s impossible to imagine humanity pulling it off. I don’t even think that’s what’s happening. I have faith/think it’s more likely that we will pull back yet again, and restore the status quo. That global conflict resolution and heaven on earth thing is an obvious fantasy, and we’ll all be equal when we’re dead. At best we can just sit back and wait for a godly authority figure to do all the work while pestilence rains down on us sheep.

Still, film presents an excellent opportunity to play around with Apocalypse Myth scenarios, and may also help to diffuse the tensions and the madness of the masses here in the age of (what age are we in) on the cusp of the millenium, when religious ferver builds up. Need I remind you that the last millenium which came and went did not see the return of the savior. Despondent, Christians started the crusades and destroyed the Muslim Empire. This millenium, the Empire strikes back. And some Fundamentalist Christians see this as a good thing. Thy Kingdom Come. This myth is loaded. It’s an unguided missile. In the hands of the literal, it suggests that destruction actually has to happen before God returns and sets everything right. This sets up incentive for destruction, and gives permission to madness. At the very least, it sets up a conflict of interest.

In the hands of the metaphorical, this is one possible scenario, the metaphor of which suggests alternative routes through it.

And as we know, it doesn’t take much to wreak havoc on the status quo. A free and open society is vulnerable. The only problem is that having this apocalypse myth hanging around is in itself dangerous, as we have seen, people with religiously extreme motivations are capable of wanting to trigger it.

If those planes hitting the twin towers were the first trumpet and first horseman of the apocalypse, then I say, bring it on. We’re ready to take a crack at it. We’ve got the internet. We’ve got a growing consciousness and this strange idea about “Universal Human Rights” (But they’re animals, I tell you! Look at them!). We swap blood and stem cells and organs. We don’t even give ourselves enough credit on the topic. All those criticisms of our racism and violence, we’re actually in the middle of a transition right now away from violence, racism and xenophobia. This may be its last battle (then again, maybe it will always be with us, like our appendix).

I submit to you that our collective obsession with the Apocalypse Myth comes from the ingrained need - trapped in cynicism, paralyzed by the impossibility of the task – to complete the past and create the future. The biggest human challenge is that one person doesn't have the energy to pull this off. It's a joint venture. But force is not an option, because that is not the best use of another person's energy. Yet we often reach for force first. Up to now we have been a genocidal, conniving, self-serving, racist, xenophobic lot (I love human beings!)

To be continued...and radically edited.
Man! I ramble as if the world wasn't about to end any time soon at all.
My actions speak loudly!

Apocalypse! The Video

For a summary of the Apocalypse experience through the ages, check out the Frontline video: Apocalypse (pictured in the side bar). Just go to http://www.shop.pbs.org/ and then type "apocalypse" in the quick search box. Pick the first video there (Length: 120 minutes on 1 tape; Item Code: A4081). Here's the description:

"On the eve of the new millennium, thoughts of doom and destruction filter through our Western consciousness, provoking both anxiety and anticipation. But where do these ideas and their symbolic power come from, and what do they really mean? Central to this concept is the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation. It is a book filled with startling images of cosmic warfare between the forces of good and evil. Written nearly two thousand years ago, many believe this ancient text foretells the end of the world. From the apocalyptic prophet Montanus--who convinced thousands that the New Jerusalem would literally descend to earth in the year 170 C.E.--to modern day end-time prophets, it seems that in nearly every age the Book of Revelation has excited a belief that the end is imminent. But the end of what? Ultimately, every generation has had to re-set the doomsday clock as time keeps ticking. Why does the Book of Revelation lend itself to so many, often contradictory interpretations, and what does it reveal? Apocalypse traces the evolution of apocalyptic ideology throughout the ages--from its origin in the Jewish experience after the Babylonian exile to its diverse and often tumultuous expression in modern times. This two-hour special invites the viewer to understand how these ideas evolved--a timely topic as we approach the year 2000."

 

And don't forget another cool history of Apocalypse source, the book:
When Time Shall Be No More : Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Studies in Cultural History)
by Paul Boyer

 


 


 

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