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.