Invitation: “About dates and times, my friends, we need not write to you, for you know perfectly well that the Day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5.1-2)
…I lay down with everyone and looked up at the sky, bracing for the explosions…
That the apocalyptic pervades our time is evident. From the rapture and financial collapse to global warming and extinction event-producing asteroids, there is the constant stimulation to a frantic awaiting, an almost pathological condition of procrastination writ large. But this apocalypticism does not refer to a single moment or technique; it is the state of the world, and its government. Accompanied by a thousand other crisis operations –crime scares and wildfires, obesity epidemics and crazy ants— an increasingly apocalyptic government shores up the order of things while working perpetually to defer both the end and any possibility of redemption.
Living in this end without end, an exhausted civilization dreams its apocalypse anew each morning: the reset button, the clean slate, the unknown, the all or nothing stakes, the victory with its vanquished. From another angle, the apocalypse speaks to us. Preppers, makers, what is that the end touches within us? What does it mean, what is this desire? Go bags? Back to nature farms and gardens? The materiality of a DIY tin cup? (….and then, I don’t know, I want to know what will happen next… I don’t know, what could I talk to you like? Anything?)
This talk will examine the workings of apocalypse and crisis, drawing out the sometimes distinct, sometimes overlapping political operations entailed by each. We will also explore how this insistence on the prolonged survival of an empire without a kingdom reveals what is perhaps the Anthropocene’s most important shift: from apocalypticism to the messianic. Contrasted to this turbulent stasis and frantic paralysis, how to begin to clarify and consider what it means to have entered messianic time? The end of waiting? The return to the world? Just do it?
Series Info: The great flood, the zombie hordes, the next Sandy or Katrina. This ongoing series considers a new geological epoch in which humans have impacted Earth to a stratigraphically greater degree than any other currently active natural process or form. Populating this age, is a civilization ordered around the modern individual, one working desperately to hold itself together, endlessly laboring to master the environment and itself beyond its bounds. But the naming of the Anthropocene comes not to announce humankind’s triumph but rather its exhaustion (at least according to the structure by which it has long pretended to abide). Marked by kilometers of receding ice and lengths of coastline lost to the sea, the growth of the desert, the expansion of pharmaceuticals (for humans, for pets, for plants), and the very existence of the film Her, the Anthropocene claims all as part of the same disaster, a metaphysical historical disaster, that is the very texture and environment of our lives.
A shared sense of this situation has, since childhood, permeated our everyday lives, but our grandparents and their grandparents before them have also perceived civilization’s end whether or not they ever registered it cognitively. A key goal of this series will be to start putting words to this feeling, to make it concrete, to develop a language, parameters, and a strategy for this new reality. We want to force this question, recognize this reality: Now that we are living in a ruin, HOW ARE WE TO LIVE IN A RUIN?