"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." Sing along with me. Or rather, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., in whose song by the same name that line is the chorus with ironic rejoinder.
Back when I lived in New York City, there was a stretch for a few weeks where I would spin that song at least daily, sometimes a few times a day, sometimes a few times in a row. Suffice to say, as I was so into the song and given what it says, it provided a certain succor. And even at a time when it hardly felt anywhere near the potential end times as it does now.
That was also a time when I would walk out the front door of my Manhattan apartment building and look up to the left in front of me and see the Twin Towers, maybe a mile or so away. And I can't tell you how many times I thought on seeing them, "Wow, that would be a perfect target for a terrorist attack." (And even ponder whether, if the World Trade Center fell in an attack, they were tall enough to fall towards my building and hit it, never knowing I don't have to say more.)
Even though life has proven to me that I have certain empathic tendencies, I don't necessarily claim them in that case. I attribute it to having lived for five months in the Middle East, on an Israeli kibbutz before, during and after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Hence I was probably more sensitized to the threat of terrorism than the average American. Plus they were a double super-penile symbol of American capitalism as well as two humongous ergo obvious structures even in a city of skyscrapers.
On 9/11 and since, what I did think regarding my intuition (if not maybe premonition) was that if it was so obvious to little old me that the WTC was such a glaringly obvious target (confirmed by the garage bomb in '93), how come others didn't see that as well? Somebody must have been sleeping at the wheel.
Yes, I digress, but still towards and related to the topic: the end of the world. And the nettlesome fact that a major broadcast network, NBC, would move a miniseries about the end of the world, Revelations, taking its cue from the last book of the Bible.
I can't claim to have seen all of it (suppose I could have blagged a screener copy under the aegis of being a columnist for this esteemed journal). When I sat down in my living room with my dinner on a tray and switched on the TV, there was the first episode, already underway (in the place where The West Wing, my great fountain of political hope, usually is).
I half watched it as I ate and then checked my email on my laptop. That's not a comment on its dramatic pull; I did not want to get sucked into it. That's how much the very idea of it bothers the living s**t out of me.
I'm also bothered by bumper stickers that say "Jesus" (though I saw one bumper sticker recently on the subject that highly amused me: "I found Jesus; and naturally, he'd fallen behind the couch"). Most all televangelists with their huge high-tech churches and bad rock bands give me the willies (something Jesus reportedly said about camel through the eye of the needle -- in direct contradiction to the popular "prosperity gospel"). And the notion of the "Left Behind" books and films really disturbs me.
To me -- a semi-lapsed Episcopalian with Universalist tendencies and Buddhist bents -- religion is not popular entertainment. It is a deep and profound matter that requires a daily lifelong search for spiritual truth and enlightenment.
And what it is not is cheap entertainment. God is not a commodity, another bit of consumer culture. And a myth about the end times may well provide great fodder for drama, but what little I caught of Revelations makes me think that NBC missed it.
And I feel like it all plays into this notion -- which has surfaced again and again at troubled times in history -- that we may be in those end times. There are many effects from such a feeling, the worst being an abdication of the very great human responsibility for the incredible gift that God (if you believe in one or more) gave us with human existence and this planet we live on.
I'd like to see mankind working harder for ensuring the eternity of human existence on this troubled earth of ours instead of thinking it may all be over. Anyone have the script or the song to help?
Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.