Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lacuna: Prophecy & Destiny

A letter to my friend, Tom, after watching a show on the History Channel about the prophecies of Nostradamus... At some point, I promise, I'll stop making half-assed attempts at filling up this blog and will instead post something of substance that doesn't make me seem slightly off-balance. Luckily for me, I've abandoned all hope of ever seeming respectable or stable or anything else so boring. I have, happily, never shied away from considering the most ridiculous of possibilities. Who am I to say there's no Big Foot, no Area 51, no magic and no Apocalypse?

2012: Under-Going & Turning Over

I just finished watching a History Channel special on the "lost book" of Nostradamus, one that contains illustrations which often seem to closely correspond to his prophecies--and I have to babble about it for a second.

I once watched a special on the original prophecies themselves (on either the History or the Discovery Channel, I forget which) that really blew me away with N.'s accuracy (especially regarding Hitler, whom he predicted almost down to the name--Hisler, one letter off). But this special, unlike that one, struck me as oddly paranoid, Euro-/Western-centric and even somewhat racist. One image found in the "lost book" is of a burning tower, which reminded me immediately of the Tarot card, but which all the experts immediately connected to 9/11 and the WTC towers. That seemed, to me, highly unlikely, since the burning/falling tower has always been such a strong but generic image in iconography, especially Judeo-Christian iconography. The connection seemed more due to the obsession in recent years with 9/11 and its shock to the American mindset (which until then had been blissfully naive, to some extent, I think)... The truth is, 9/11 was, of course, a tragedy, but definitely a small one compared to on-going disease, famine, poverty, etc. in the non-Western and non-industrialized world, that we mostly ignore at our convenience. It also bothered me that the show kept referring to the "war with Muslims/Arabs" as if this were a real, literal war occurring right now, and not (as it actually is) largely a propaganda technique used by extremists on both sides to exacerbate violence and confusion. But again, my first introduction to Islam was through the beautiful poetry of its mystics, who embrace love and peace above all things, and through the startling power of the Qur'an as a "sacred text" of amazing style and insight (it puts the poetry of the Old Testament to shame!). I've never seen Islam as a threat, either to peace or to Christianity itself, and so it was odd and frustrating to watch the "experts" in this show take it for granted that even a metaphorical "Muslim invasion" (i.e. the introduction of Islamic culture into Western culture, which will of course result, at first, in tension and conflict) was inherently a horrible, fearful thing. It was also almost funny how much concern the possible dissolution of the Catholic Church caused these "experts." One image shows a group of women turning their back on the Pope (apparently, an image that particularly depicts our present Pope) while one attempts to take the staff, topped by a double-cross (symbolizing the Tree of Life), from the Pope's hand. They went on and on about how this might refer to the recent "embarrassments" of the Church, like the child molestation scandals, the continued repression of women in the Church, and the intolerant, racist remarks made by the Pope about Islam (things which I consider a little more dire and disgusting than "embarrassing"). At that point, I found myself saying, "Damn right! I hope the Church does dissolve!" That's when it began to occur to me, though it should have been obvious before then, that even accurate prophecies are filtered through the perspectives of individuals--the prophets themselves, as well as their later interpreters. There's no denying that events in recent times have been awful and may be escalating, but it seems that the fear- and hate-mongering the show's "experts" took for granted is exactly the kind of behavior that would exacerbate rather than mitigate those events.

At the end, they pointed to a series of very interesting images that seem to be about "the end of the world." It was very eerie that, using entirely Judeo-Christian imagery and astrological symbolism, Nostradamus indicated the exact same time of crisis (2012 and the two decades leading up to it) as the Mayan calendar and other predictive systems (including, according to one of my college professors, Chaos Theory). And based on the same astronomical event--the alignment of the earth, sun and the center of our galaxy (visible to the naked eye as a dark gap in the Milky Way between Sagittarius and Scorpius). But I've already spent a great deal of time thinking about the possible "end of history" that might occur then, before I'm quite thirty... and I'm not afraid of it. In fact, I'm looking forward to it a bit, as a time of possible revelation or realization in a very positive and growth-oriented sense, a turning-over (like when you turn over a rock and all the ugly things slither out from under it, exposed to the light--or when you cross the equator of the earth and toilets start draining in the opposite direction). If we're living through the twenty years of worstest Bad (1992 - 2012) right now, and yet still able to grieve trustfully and hope whole-heartedly, if we rise to that challenge now, then what have we to fear from the future?

I think about the strange world people live in--the world of technology and thoughtlessness and sensory bombardment and dehumanization and corrupt politicians--and how even within that world I am still able to cultivate a sacred space of humanity, connection, poetry and love... a space that does not seem so different from the kind of space from which Rumi, Christ, Buddha, Krishna and other ancient peace-makers spoke... and I can't help but think that we really aren't so different from our ancestors, that we share a fundamental humanity that cannot be so easily destroyed, and that any kind of turning-over in 2012 will be as gradual and subtle as it is tragic and frightening. After all, the Christian mythos from which fears of the Apocalypse stem for the Western world is the same mythos that locates the most important event in human (and possibly universal) history as the death of one obscure man whose sacrifice took centuries and centuries to gain any influence at all. Even when I was resolutely Christian, I always suspected that the End of Days event, if there was such a thing, would be similarly obscure to those living through it. Jesus supposedly says not to waste effort trying to predict when it would occur, but instead to be ever present to the world. Maybe that's because it's not only that we can't know when it happens, but that we won't know when it happens. Now, I'm not so sure I even believe in a linear model of time that such beginnings-and-endings assumes, which is why I can't help but feel like 2012, if anything, will simply be a turning-over, a point at which we begin to return to ourselves.

What does all that have to do with your sense of destiny? I don't know. But all my best and closest friends have had that sense of overwhelming drive and purpose about them. Maybe I'm just drawn to people with broad ideals and a sense of service towards humanity... But I think maybe, if we want to have a broad influence, in the end we have to cultivate a broad perspective. I know exactly what you're talking about, with your frustration with the powerful and the corrupt--all through college I struggled with that injustice. Have I told you my "where was I when 9/11 happened" story? Someday I'll have to tell you when we're face-to-face. But that morning, I remember the surge of anger at everyone, including my own country and its citizens and its media--it was like I could see all the consequences, the fear-mongering and escalating responses of violence, just spinning out of control from that one moment.. and I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop it. Sometimes I still feel like that. I think Raymond and I are the only people I know who cry about the world. For a long time, I thought I was the only one--sometimes, I just can't take it, and I weep over how small and futile the efforts of the best people seem in the face of so much war and noise (that line from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, always gets me: "What can men do against such reckless hate?"). Then the other week, Raymond told me that he's been crying about the world a lot recently, too. Sometimes, though, I think that's what it takes.

That's how I cope, to answer your question. I cry, and I offer my weeping itself as a gift to the Divine. I think there is a sacredness in tears--flowing water that can cleanse and heal, that can communicate the grief and love, both of which stem from my enduring ability to hope and to imagine a better world. And then, after I'm done crying, I get to work. I don't always know what the work is, but I'm always at it, I'm always feeling my way towards it. Not to be a complete nerd, but allow me to reference an episode of the television show, Angel, in which one main character is talking about the conflict between Fate and free will:

The final score can't be rigged. I don't care how many players you grease, that last shot always comes up a question mark. But here's the thing, you never know when you're takin' it. It could be when your duking it out with the legion of doom, or just crossin' the street deciding where to have brunch. So you just treat it all like it was up to you, with the world in the balance, cause you never know when it is.

That's pretty much how I feel. It's so clear that even the smallest of events can spiral out and affect the world, and since you never know which small event that might be, you always engage fully in every moment, you always remain present and treat every single instant as the instant in which the world could turn over.


  1. So, some of these Nostradamus prophecies sound familiar to me, probably because they were interpreted in the 80s to mean the Soviets would start a nuclear war. If you dig around used book shops I'm sure you can find a few mildewing copies of prophecy books doing just that. I once found an Christian apocalyptic nonfiction book predicting the end of the world in 1974, the year I was born.

    The 2012 obsession makes me nostalgic, too, since I worked at FEMA through the Last Great Calendar apocalypse (aka Y2K). That year, of course, we began the slow roll towards what we have now. 2012 will probably, as you say, mark another subtle shift. But history is always doing a slow roll one direction or another, so I doubt 2012 will be unique in that fashion.

  2. I have to say I kind of love these end of the world prophesies. I don't find any of them ring true to me. But, what I think is valuable about them is thinking of everything being in some way destroyed or changed. I like to harbor these thoughts sometimes. It helps to assess - what is really necessary in this world? This is why I also enjoy hearing Peak Oil people and global warming people. Both include massive collapses of the environment and the economy. They are sad because they are caused by human folly, foolishness, and waste. However, I enjoy nurturing a sense of certain systems, constructions, and ways of life just suddenly collapsing. It gives so much room for possibility. There is room for other things to grow from the destruction. Like a forest fire, the very ashes of a destroyed forest provide the nutrients that feed the sprouting undergrowth of young trees.

  3. Hello Ali,

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    This is a bit long, but I guarantee it is worth your time and effort to read, analyze, and contemplate what I have proven throughout these articles. The primary deceptions of the Three Faiths of Abraham (vain imaginings), the Vatican, and conspiring world leaders are now laid bare to the glaring light and cleansing heat. When you finish reading these articles, you will know the truth about many ages-old deceptions, who the Great Deceivers truly are, and where they are headquartered. The secret knowledge the Vatican has most feared the multitudes would finally understand is verifiably exposed...

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  4. Sort of echoing what others have said--I remember the "Late Great Planet Earth" back in the 70s, which referred to Nostradamus. Crazy predictions about every current event imaginable, and none came true. I went to a Christian school and one of my teachers first predicted that Jesus would return when the planets all lined up in '82--didn't happen. She also predicted Jesus would return when Egypt and Israel signed that peace treaty (forget the year! '79?) Anyway, didn't happnen.

    Seems people are afraid not knowing what will happen in the future. I don't understand it. So they turn to Nostradamus or the book of Revelation, but I think we have to be careful because anything we read, we interpret through the lens of our own time, experiences and perspective. Yeah, it's fun but it can also be quite damaging.

    A thoughtful and interesting post.

  5. Wow, thanks for commenting, guys! I had no idea my random babblings would spark some response (well, excepting "seven star hand" ::glare at spammer::).

    I'm mostly reminded of Pratchett's and Gaiman's book, Good Omens, which is all about a book of prophecy that never does anyone any good. If I recall (it's been, sadly, too long since I read it!) there was a lot implied in that book about living in the present moment. I'm much more concerned about such attentive, engaged living than I am with possible futures.

    On the other hand, I do like patterns, and I'm a pattern-seeker in most aspects of my life. So naturally, I love talking about old prophetic texts and what kinds of cultural or historical patterns they draw on, create or predict. It's more like a puzzle or a mind-teaser than anything else for me.

    I promise, I really will write something good for blog at some point.... Ask Nostradamus. He knows how sincere I am. ;)