When I was a kid, I fantasized about the end of the world—or more accurately, about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Growing up in the midst of the Cold War, with daily reports on the nuclear armaments possessed by the United States and the Soviet Union, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine one trigger-happy cowboy or the other flipping out and sending us all over the collective brink. There is something fascinating about the idea of starting over, even if it requires living like a scavenger and dealing with billowing clouds of hyper-toxic radiation.
I suppose Armageddon is every bit as possible today as it was back in the 1980s. If anything, the world has become even more unstable. The collapse of the Soviet Union created the potential for nuclear weapons to end up in the hands of unstable governments, or to disappear from regulation altogether. There are violent groups of people hell-bent on causing civil unrest and destruction, driven to bring the whole system down around us. I have to admit, I’m not a great fan of “the system” either, but I’d prefer the revolution to occur with greater subtlety, as the number of the fed-up grows and people devise their own ways of living outside of this loose network of laws, armies, and corporations.
These days, I think there is something inherently egotistical about believing that we are living in the “End Times.” People seem to relish the idea of being the last humans on the planet—or as their religion might have you believe, the last life in the Universe. Religion, specifically Christianity, seems to drive a lot of the believers in the End Times—that time when Jesus will return to Earth to pass his judgment on us pesky mortals. Having been raised with no religion, it’s never made a great deal of sense to me. That being said, I have read the Book of Revelations (a few times). I got turned on to it by one of my favorite authors, the late great Hunter S. Thompson, who said he flipped to Revelations whenever he was staying in a motel room and hadn’t brought along anything to read. Thanks to the Gideons, at one point there was a Bible in just about every hotel nightstand across America. Thompson read Revelations for its wild language and descriptions of chaos.
Some friends of mine and I were talking about the Bible over cocktails the other night. A lot of people hold a lot of animosity toward that collection of fables, parables, histories, and prophecies. The book is blamed for the misinterpretations and misdeeds of those who seem incapable of realizing morality, without having it spelled out for them in 5,000-year-old glyphs. For my money though, it is the most important book in our history, if only for its pervasiveness and endurance. There isn’t much in Western literature that isn’t directly influenced by, or taken from, those early mythologies.