Apocalyptic and decadent worlds

Apocalyptic and decadent worlds

The author reflects on the world after the coronavirus and the desirability of change.

One day I felt the inspiration to write about an apocalyptic world. But then another idea occurred to me, one which shocked me a great deal more. It was the idea of a decadent world. A world with no problems or apparent suffering. A life of luxury, indifference and apathy. I believe that there is a very real threat to think that soon we can go back to our normal lives. I propose here an alternative path.

In biblical terms the word Apocalypse is something which incarnates hope. In English we also talk of the book of Revelation. That is of something being revealed. The problem is that the idea of Apocalypse is too readily associated with strange visions.   Furthermore, Paul Murgatroyd makes the point that the word monster in English is derived from a supernatural phenomenon which constituted a portent or omen sent by the gods. But we need to think about the type of God we think we know.

In the film Fury, on Second World War tank crews, there is an interesting scene. After having survived an attack one of the crew thanks God for saving them. One of the others retorts and “what is God doing up there, playing dice?”. We are wont to think that God is not like this. Yet at times of difficulty it comes into play. The popular motivational speaker Yokoi Kenji asks us indeed to consider if the most creative thing that the God of Creation can do is to destroy his creation. Clearly not, and yet many voices in popular media are convinced that is precisely what is happening.

Moreover the popular songwriter Sheryl Crow in her song “Hard to make a stand” talks of people who still argue over who is God and that need a revelation. I feel one of the signs of decadence are ideas too easily assumed about who God is and what He wants for us. Equally, we are in need of a Revelation. But sadly we tend to interpret revelations according our need to feel punished or approved. In this sense it is interesting when Moses asks to see God´s face in the book of Exodus  he gets is a vision of his back, “For no man can see my face and live” (Ex. 33, 20). Strange when we consider that Moses was on intimate and close terms with God. We might think that with Jesus things change. Here God makes himself physically present. We even have his favored disciple John listening to his very heart, at the Last Supper (Jn. 13,23). Yet how much of what see in the Gospels is a certain resistance. A certain decadence. A Jesus who has to battle for the minds and wills of his disciples.

I would also say that we need to take seriously our resistance to God. The film Matrix explains this well. Agent Smith talks to the resistance leader Morpheus about how crops of farmed humans were lost. Not because the simulacra world was inadequate. No, because human beings prefer suffering. I would also say decadence. A desire to return to normal, to the known, that which can be controlled. That scares me more than the Coronavirus. The illusion that we are in control. That this will never happen again. We survived. Now to resume the everyday life of living. But there is no going back. We cannot return to normal. Coronavirus I suspect is but the beginning.

It is like the emotional scene in the Superman film Man of Steel. With Krypton destroying itself and her husband dead, his mother lifts up a cry to the heavens “Make a better world Cal”. I think we owe it to the many who have died, the health professionals who have put their lives on the line, to make a better world. To opt for a different world, not the desire to return to things as they were. The world has changed, perhaps it is time we all changed.

Douglas Beard OAR