Notes on the Apocalypse

Many battles, much polarization; we are splitting into sides. Online especially, there is right and wrong, good and bad, the “right side of history” and the wrong. Even saying “the right side of history” implies petty, idiotic opinions are of world-altering significance.

Wokeye

The Book of Revelation is the ultimate story of Good vs. Evil, black vs. white. It’s also the ultimate revenge story. John of Patmos was a persecuted early Christian, exiled to a penal colony, expelled from society; cancelled, as we’d say today. He was righteous and angry. He had time to imagine, in elaborate detail, the comeuppance of his oppressors. Isn’t this what we all do, if we have the time? Imagine our torturers being tortured tenfold in return, in delicious detail. It is notably un-Christian. You are supposed to forgive. You are supposed to understand. You are supposed to seek peace, to love thy enemy.

Not John! John fantasizes his enemies getting stung by locusts, rained on by fire, and cast into the pit of hell. In Revelation, neither he, nor Jesus, nor God Himself have compassion for sinners. Won’t his oppressors be sorry when they see John and his ilk rise up into heaven, while they get hurt and humiliated and tortured! Haha, turnabout is fair play! John may be motivated by that, but as far as his Jesus and God are concerned, this is simply the nature of things, the arc of justice, the “history” one is on the right or wrong side of.

Revelation’s End of the World is imagined as a war. It feels like war right now. My own little battle hill, Mount Ladyfeels, feels like a war between women and misogynists, reality and fantasy, mental health and mental illness, truth and lies. But which side is which? Each end of the pole believes it has Truth on its side. I try to stay out of fights, but I’ve gotten into this one: women don’t have penises, women are female, humans cannot change sex, gender is oppressive. To the other side, this is hate speech and I’m a nazi.

Armageddon is online. Armageddon is the Last Battle, saints against sinners. No nuance whatsoever. Have a look at twitter. Every ban of a TERF is a demon cast to hell. Look at Reddit. GenderCritical permanently eliminated: 65,000 subscribers consigned to the abyss. An angel holds the key. Righteousness is triumphing over evil! Except it’s backwards. Black is white and white is black. We’re polarized like a horseshoe magnet. Which pole is which?

So things morph in Revelation. Candlesticks are stars are churches. Seven candlesticks are also a menorah, the Jewish community from which Christianity emerges, as the Child emerges from the Woman Clothed With The Sun. Seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven churches, seven eyes of the Lamb, seven heads of the Beast. Good sevens vs Bad sevens.

Good woman, the Mother, vs Bad woman, the Whore of Babylon. The women don’t fight, they merely appear as symbols for one side or the other. There’s a third woman, the Bride of the Lamb, who is a city, the New Jerusalem. Mother, Whore, and Virgin (bride), sort of like the Triple Goddess Maiden-Mother-Crone, except no Crone. I am a crone, so I wonder what happened to Her. Is She the Whore now? In Online Armageddon, older feminists are denounced and despised. Yes, maybe that’s us.

My Animated Apocalypse will also morph, like the language of John the Divine. But in the end, even black will morph into white. Throne will morph into Beast, Lamb’s eyes into dragon’s heads, up into down, heaven into hell.

How will it end?

Why do we seek stories of “the end of the world”? The world does not end. It keeps going and going. We end though. And societies end.  Someday, Civilization will end; perhaps that’s what we mean by the End of the World.

The end of the world is nothing new. The Book of Revelation has always fascinated, as people have always felt on the edge of abyss. Apocalyptic fiction continues to be written; Revelation is merely our most famous early example. This world has been ending since it was created, and it is created anew every day.

The End of the World may be an egoistic projection of us mortals, who can’t cope with the inevitability of our own deaths. If we go, our egos dictate, the World goes with us. Persecution heightens ego. When you’re a scapegoat, as John was (and as I have been), your ego is deeply wounded, along with the rest of you. It enlarges. Narcissism is a consequence of trauma. Dwelling on the End of the World is a defensive projection, to deflect the reality of death from the inflamed ego.

Civilization has never been stable, as Against the Grain by James C. Scott amply illustrates. While Civilization itself persists in various forms, individual civilizations, or societies, always fall, the individuals comprising them regrouping anew. But Civilization didn’t always exist. Humans once were bound to the rest of the natural world, without literacy or other advanced abstractions. “Everything that is created is destroyed,” say the Buddhists, so someday Civilization will go. Like Derrick Jensen, I’m rooting for this Fall, because Civilization is killing the planet.

John’s Apocalypse, though, is more the opposite: the triumph of Civilization, and the final Fall of Nature. The New Jerusalem is a city, not a forest. It is fully paved. John rapturously describes the purified metals and minerals comprising it. Nature is completely tamed; there is but one Tree, around one river that emanates from the Throne. It’s all right angles, planes and walls.

Detail from Hans Memling’s The Last Judgement,” left panel, “The Elect.” Souls step up from the Earth to the much more desirable New Jerusalem, featuring perfectly smooth planes, sharp angles, and crystalline minerals.

In my personal theology, a just End of the World would be a return to Nature: humans disappearing into a platonic abstract New Jerusalem, and the Earth, finally rid of us, recovering at last. But the world does not end. I will die, but the world will continue. The only end I will live to see is my own. Until then, my ego needs something to do, and dwelling on the Book of Revelation is it.

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Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

6 thoughts on “Notes on the Apocalypse”

  1. The end already happened, we just haven’t realized it, yet, like someone staring at the light of a star that died years ago.
    I had a dream once that the world ended, only it hadn’t, quite, but everyone was suddenly bestowed with the understanding that it was over, done deal, goodbye… I often get flashbacks to that dream now, in the midst of the pandemic.
    What an ironic twist that when the end did come for us it wasn’t so much in the form of some violent global calamity but a hush coming over the world…
    End times happen every day, of course, for those who cross into death… the apocalypse really is ultimately a very personal experience that everyone has to go through, one way or the other.

  2. Great theme. I see a new movie coming! You have the gift of storytelling, which makes your sharing something many people care for.

  3. One of the really big problems of the world thus far is that it _doesn’t_ end. We march forth to die on some hill and then when we get there we find that there is another, bigger hill behind it.

  4. No end in sight for me, Nina. But yes your conclusions are brilliant as always. In the end we always reach what we believe in, this is the set goal we are working towards. If we believe in an end so end will come, easy as a, b, c. If we wish us an Armageddon we will have it. No end in sight for me (except my very own end). We have to pass the Filter there is no getting around, no dodging out. And the only thing that can help us is to be convinced that we can made it, we have all the power in the palm of our hands we just have to use it. And yes, we have to get rid of this b&w thinking, this good vs. bad. Lesson #1 to learn, life won’t end and we are unimportant for life itself. Lesson #2, there is no good or bad, there are good acts and bad acts we can measure by the result but there is no good or bad per se. Sometimes i lose patience and hope, but i know in some sort it will end up good “everything must be this way”. Scapegoat, lol.

  5. Addendum:
    I guess we have to go through hard times in the near future (near can be a century or more), we will lose most of our technical achievements, unfortunately, unfortunately it seems that this is our will. I can’t say how often we must complete the wheel, we did it already very often, rise and fall. Perhaps this will never end, but each time we advance a tiny bit. It’s just that a single life is far to short to recognize this. We are bound to one section of the wheel and all we can see is this section. Fortunately.

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