Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Personal Apocalypse

As our family approached the May long weekend (May 22 was Victoria Day, for you non-Canuckleheads), we figured a trip to our nation's capital might be just the thing. I have a sister there, my wife has a brother, and it's a terrific town for family-type activities. The day before we left, I busied myself with some last-minute house cleaning, and devoted a significant amount of time to backing up files on my computer, since it was showing signs of giving up the ghost. After a lengthy marathon in front of the monitor, I lay down for a short nap.

When I woke up, I was a little surprised to feel a slight twinge in my right ankle. I walked on it for a bit; it felt a little like a sprain. I paid it no further attention, and packed for the weekend.

We drove out early the next morning. When I stepped out of the car, my ankle really gave me the business. And so it went for the rest of the weekend: walking was incredibly painful, but by Monday the pain was beginning to let up a wee bit.

I mulled over my condition. I try not to worry or whinge, so I chalked it down to just one more early indignity I'm slated to suffer as I grow older. Some sort of arthritis, maybe. Or ... gout? Something manageable, at any rate.

We returned home, my computer crashed, and while I waited for the new one, I picked up books I'd put off. Easing back into bed one night, I grazed through an essay by a fellow Menno, who was trying to account for a sudden mistrust of air travel. He searched the far reaches of his consciousness for the reason, wondered about that Australian athlete who died from a blood clot in his leg, then rejected that notion for ... Oh dear Lord!! BLOOD CLOT!!!

That night proved to be grimly curious. Facing my potentially near-immediate departure from this Vale of Tears, I did some quick accounting of unfinished business. Relationships came under intense scrutiny, and with the scales now torn from my eyes I silently acknowledged numerous instances of incredibly selfish behaviour -- so many times when I asserted what I'd thought was my justifiable right, deliberately ignoring or even pointedly wounding someone I loved. I mulled over what I needed to say, to whom, and how. Creating this ledger had a strangely pacifying effect on my nerves, and I eventually fell into a restive sleep.

When I woke up, I got started on my mission. Three weeks later, I'm still at it, albeit with a steady decline in my zeal. The sawbones dismissed out-of-hand my fear of clotting, and suggested it was almost certainly muscular strain of some kind, but sent me to the x-ray room to check for hairline fractures. It's been a very slow, but steady, improvement (thanks for asking).

I indulge in this bit of hand-wringing because today is The Day of the Beast -- June 6, 2006, or 06/06/06, or 666 -- a day of significance to those of us who either take ourselves (and our Apocalyptic Literature) way too seriously, or conversely possess a particularly impish sense of humour. The Apocalypse of St. John The Divine meant the world to me in my youth; I read it as a 12-year-old, and I've yet to shake the sense that there's a global catastrophe lurking just beyond my doorstep. Conversely, and predictably enough, I now have a finely-tuned knee-jerk impatience whenever such Radical Cosmic Conversion scenarios are proposed in my vicinity. If you want to get me raving, ply me with a few drinks, then ask me what I think of the LaHaye/Jenkins juggernaut. Or Vernor Vinge's Singularity.

Oh, right -- you've caught me in the throes of an unselfish makeover, so let me save you some time and money: I fucking hate that shit.

Notwithstanding the social historical origins of Apocalyptic Literature, I think the broad religious appeal of apocalyptic scenarios stems from a deep impatience with other people -- and, dare I say, with God. Historically, apoca-lit is born in times of horrific persecution -- Revelation is a letter to a Church facing almost certain extinction, telling the Faithful that all physical evidence to the contrary, they, and not their persecutors, are the ones on the winning side of the equation. When your sons are being wrapped in tallow and lit like marshmallows, and your daughters are subjected to worse, you can be forgiven a little panicky impatience with the Divine. But what happens when the immediate threat disappears, our wealth and influence grow, and our baseline disenchantment with our compromised (or "fallen") existence remains? We are Believers, we've already recognized our need for change; why don't The Others? What's it going to take for Them to recognize the error of their ways? An Apocalypse, that's what (and isn't Apocalyptica, and the recognition of Other People's maddening error-ridden ways what Metal is all about?).

This all sits very close to the surface for me, what with the recent arrests of some local Muslims apparently intent on doing massive, grievous harm. Our nation's authorities are going out of their way to say this plot was in no way "religiously motivated", so I'm compelled to see-saw in the other direction. I figure you can be a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist -- or, for that matter, an environmentalist, an animal-rights activist, yea even a Norwegian Black-Metal guitarist -- and be desirous of someone else's violent, Apocalyptic confrontation with "reality". Impatience and religious certitude will get you to that spot very quickly.

Perhaps this is just my impatience with the impatience of others, but I stare at this foot of mine that looks so normal and yet gives me such grief, and I get to wondering: why can't these personal apocalypses -- the twinge in the ankle, the lumps beneath the skin -- be enough? Attend to them in your own life and the lives of others if you want to be any good in this world, and give the doom and gloom and the violent conversion stories a break. See if that doesn't bring about a wee "singularity" of sorts.

But what do I know? Maybe you're still impatient. Fine, then: bang your head and wave the horns. Just please wear earplugs. As for me, I'd like to think I'm at my best when I take myself way too seriously and possess an impish sense of humour, so today when I can take a break from my gloriously unselfish behavior, I'll be watching Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?

Oh, and one more thing: the actual "number of the Beast" is 616.



Scott said...

Uh-oh, Darrell, today is some kind of cosmic shift, as you and I have switched places!! You're wringing your hands about the Imminent End of the World while I'm writing 1500 words in praise of a priest. If this is Freaky Tuesday, you'll have to be Jodie Foster.

I like your end bit, though -- I too take the End Times seriously AND have an impish sense of humour -- so it looks like I'll have to sit and write about that gay apocalypsist who scared me a decade back...

FreeThinker said...

6-6-06. This is fun, but in a make-fun-of-the-superstitious-people kind of way. Of course, there's no such thing as gods, demons, angels, ghosts, et cetera.

DarkoV said...

Ellen Aitken, a professor of early Christian history at McGill University, said the discovery appears to spell the end of 666 as the devil's prime number. (from your link)
Leave it to a McGillicuddy to ruin a perfect run of 666. So it seems all my missives to the Dark Side beseeching bad times on my enemies have been misaddressed as "666 Satan's Way".

I'm sure he didn't even bother with a forwarding address.

On the bright side, glad to hear that you're up and about and just slightly off-kilter due to the Aging Heebie-Jeebies.

ps. What is it about your Word Verification, WP? You've got the longest one going, running just short of 12 letters. Seeking extra protection due to 6/06/06?

Whisky Prajer said...

Scott - you've at least got an excuse: you got paid for it. Between that and the fact that it's a legitimate story, you're covered.

freethinker - thanks for dropping by, but be forewarned: by your lights I am most assuredly superstitious! I sincerely hope that doesn't prevent you from returning.

DV - hmm, 12 letters you say? I was shooting for 18...

Trent Reimer said...

Was it Coburn whose post 9/11 song included the refrain "Everbody wants to see justice done... on somebody else!"?

Whisky Prajer said...

If it's Bruce you refer to, I expect that's close to the mark. A similar lyric from "All Our Dark Tomorrows":

There’s a parasite feeding on
Everybody’s bag of rage
What goes out returns again
To smite the mouth and burn the page
Under the rain of all our dark tomorrows

Cowtown Pattie said...

"Oh, and one more thing: the actual "number of the Beast" is 616."

I just heard 'bout dat on NPR, the best harbinger of apocalyptic news.

Such deep thoughts, Jack Handy. All brought on by a sprained ankle? At any rate, it brought out the lively muse your blogging audience loves!

Hope psyche, soul, ankle and all are on the mending bright side.

Whisky Prajer said...

Thank you - and be assured there will be no forthcoming meditations on hangnails or ingrown whiskers.

dan h. said...

You wrote:
"I fucking hate that shit." (LaHaye/Jenkins/Vinge's)

Oh how I wish I could use those exact words to my congregation sometimes.

peace; and glad you're just getting old like me.

Whisky Prajer said...

Thanks for weighing in on that particular line, Preacher Dan, because truth be told, I'm still enough of my mother's son to feel a twinge of guilt before I hit "publish" on this piece.