October 12, 2009

Party Poopers

Here's a masterful (and destructive!) lesson in how to obliterate teevee, movies, most of publishing, indeed all of popular culture for the next three years (at least) -- thus proving that these people are, in fact, the Original Destroyers. Not the end of the world?!?! Just wait till I tell that pompous programming VP at NBC (all of 26 years old, the clod), who pooh-poohed my imperishable pitch for a series about idyllic (yet charmingly troubled!) family life 100 years hence, kinda like (as I told him), "Beaver Meets The Singularity! With sex!" I still think it's a damned goldmine.

The story (the one about the Mayans, not future Beaver's) has much that highly amuses and also a couple of intriguing tidbits, including a brief discussion of the much more urgent -- and real -- problems facing today's Mayans. And it has this:
Bernal suggests that apocalypse is "a very Western, Christian" concept projected onto the Maya, perhaps because Western myths are "exhausted."
I think Bernal is somewhat inexact in ascribing the fixation on apocalypse to "exhaustion"; rather, I would suggest the explanation lies in the nature of the Western myths themselves (from which "exhaustion" inevitably follows) -- more particularly in the cosmic dualism underlying those myths, and what Jamake Highwater describes as the "dismal, polemical cosmogony of absolute good and evil" and a notably "grim...vision of existence." The West's insistence on "absolute good and evil" is but one example of the "warring dualities" Highwater describes, dualities that I recently discussed with regard to the West's related obsession with ranking and hierarchical judgment ("best," "worst," "greatest," etc.).

Good and evil are one duality; beginning and end are another. For all their talk of the reality of eternity (and finding bliss therein, and so on), many religionists are especially resistant to the idea that the universe simply is. No: the universe began, which means that it perforce must end. Thus: apocalypse. I may get into some of that in more detail another time. (I had written more on these issues for this post, but then deleted it. Each sentence I wrote raised at least a dozen further questions. All too complicated for the moment, and there's other writing I want to do.)

On a somewhat related note, I saw over the weekend that some people had been reading an essay of mine from early 2006: "The Apocalyptic Crusader, Continued: American Apocalypse." That article discusses some valuable identifications by Robert Jay Lifton, and contains some connections of my own that I think continue to hold much explanatory power today.

If you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts of apocalypse, remember: every ending is another beginning. And vice versa. And on the other hand. See all the pairs and dualities? They're everywhere you look. As the earlier piece discusses, it's how we learn to think. It's a continuing struggle to recognize how unnecessarily constricting it is. Other approaches may prove to be much more valuable. Ah, approaches. There you go: multiple possibilities. Progress.

"There are more things in heaven and earth.../Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Just so.