The Apocalypse, in the words of Joachim of Fior, is “the key of things past, the knowledge of things to come; the opening of what is sealed, the uncovering of what is hidden.” The Apocalypse, then, succeeds in hiding its own meaning, and bears a transcendental, secularized version, so its eschatology should be studied not only as the end of history, but also as the proposition of events and signs accompanying the final denouement. Indeed, at least since the French Revolution, secular Western civilization has associated the Apocalypse with an increasing preoccupation with political existence. In establishing this “temporal” range, Apocalyptic prognosis has spawned numerous Gnostic political movements such as progressivism, utopianism, revolutionary Marxism, parliamentarism, fascism and democratic constitutionalism – something that brings to mind Bernard McGinn”s admonishment that apocalypticism was called upon when public knowledge and public structures were endangered or implausible. Or we might also think of Shakespeare’s idea of history as a “rehearsal of all the events of human tragedy.” For these individuals, from Augustine, Dante, Milton, Blake and Joyce, the Apocalypse focuses on the questions of justice and the providence of G-d”s involvement in the affairs of men and women, and in the human condition to control one”s own destiny.
For many, such as myself, I am transfixed in the nightly viewing of the Middle East as a blazing Apocalypse. Far from the ideal of Augustine of a heavenly city or a “New Jerusalem” – I now see Haifa and Beirut as celestial disruptions. The daily coverage and body count belittles the overall human toll of Babylon obliterated – of the dystopia of a daily Maslovian struggle to find nutritious food. Far from the allegorical reference of the “Garden of Eden,” we witness rotting fruits and fresh produce in military no-man zones as the populace of both countries becomes sojourners in their own lands. As “paradise spoiled,” the human condition in the field takes on a new meaning. The unfolding human calamity of food insecurity on these two populations can only spell immediate and long-term physiological impacts. I worry about the plight of hunger and the most vulnerable of any sub-population: the elderly and children. Myths of Apocalyptic Man within “cities under crisis” move between fact and emotion. Populations fleeing bombs are not harvesting fields and warring about the proper caloric intake to maintain the human balance.
I fear as the geopolitical machinery grinds slowly to some temporal solution we will lose G-d’s planted garden paradise and perhaps a generation of the walking-wounded. As “our world hurries towards its end,” the private Armageddons of real people”s hunger pains and malnourishment is numbing to think about. As we sit in front of our televisions in the same narcissistic decadence of Rome and watch this human tragedy unfold as if a gladiator sport for the psycho-neurotic – Let us poise for a reality check about our own plight. To be a passive observer of history is morally bankrupt. As Christopher Isherwood wrote: “…there is no security in your mansions or your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double beds. Understand this fact and you will be free. Accept it and you will be happy.” Let us pray for a lasting peace.
— H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D.