History should meander but is often life imitating art. Where do beginnings, middles and ends come from, how can things build to a climax and how, on earth, is the aftermath like nothing so much as a dénouement? Arlo's "Last Train" is the objective correlative of redemption and what I wanna know is, if there's no redemption how comes there a correlative? Answer me that. Wittgenstein notwithstanding, our intimations of teleology may be grounded. Verifiability isn't one with truth so fancy may be more than airy nothings and this could be a tragedy with a happy ending.
In '75 or so I saw a train, as it were, headed obliviously for a cliff. The engine's the US, the rest the west and there are no brakes, but the cars can unhitch and roll to a stop at the edge. I felt like I'd spent several years chasing the train trying to warn someone, anyone, before realizing I was ahead of it if I could see the cliff and should sit tight, hop on when it got here.
In the fall of '71 I was in grad school taking american lit, the twenties. I'd graduated in '70 and as I encountered the earlier period (had read Gatsbyetcetera but this was the twenties of a piece, with the sixties just past), I saw history repeating. Given decades of transformation, this was lightning striking twice (I know a fit when I feel one) and oh, the thunder: an entity in practice now (interdependency has named the game), intricate network of pickups and deliveries, the economy is a single system for which to crash would be to stop completely. We can have recessions in perpetuity but a depression is beyond our means--and as sure is to shooting, boom is to crash. This time it would be final, the richest nation ever suddenly ceasing to exist.
I don't remember meaning to, but I read Revelation: with a clear view of the upcoming collapse in the context of the century and the sweep that set its stage, with an attendant awareness of the extent to which it could have been otherwise and any number of turning points came as surprises, in light of a recognition that in a natural world the future does not exist in any sense until it happens and "foreseeing" is another absurdity, the account of the fall of Babylon so fully evokes, so duplicates the crash that it can only be a description. The ancient text implies, since the event it describes is contingent on prior developments, that the whole was described beforehand and to the degree that the mind grasps this it rebels, but a fit's a fit.
Here lay a thesis and I needed one, didn't doubt it once I saw it but if it were true proof was beside the point. From this, what could be gathered? It was a tough nut but the germ was there, in an upcoming collapse at once wholly natural and wholly ordained. While the immediate inference is that as a judgment this would be just (seek the crime to fit the punishment and, sure enough, if liability's in short supply at your house there's to spare down the block, but who'd've guessed so bankrupt a culture could be so full of itself?), the central one lies in natural/ordained, implying that the apparent contradictions between theism and a rigorous naturalism could be resolved. The coalition was years in the offing, but made then. I took my position on the watchtower. Things had fallen into place all around me so I had plenty to do but later I sent out yet another paper to no response, wondered what more I could do, remembered I'd hoped sometime to solve the apocalyptic riddle. I sat down one night with a Bible, books and some big sheets of paper. By what method and in view of what certainties was the outcome predicted, called forth? How, precisely, how precisely and to what end?
In what they've only lately found to be an undetermined universe, physicists predict in probabilities, project outcomes of given quantum states. The rule covers the human too: no law governs individual behavior and no single response is predictable even in principle, but in the aggregate patterns appear and empower foresight. The art lies in the demography of that in the human realm (where the spirit is embodied and enabled or not at all) which has no demographic image. If the unfolding built into the Bang carried beyond star formation to lead evolution to the human, all roads did lead to Rome and Israel would stand in the way, her revelation (the only exception to nature, specific and long since, compared to what one might expect a few words whispered) over the centuries having readied her for the encounter. This is the given (quantum)historical state. What will ensue? The theodicy supplies the premise and Babylon a bit of the plan.
The apocalypses are a smokescreen of shuffled images with a pretense of Foreseeing and Intervention, a simultaneity of doom and redemption in which nothing is concrete but some numbers, marking intervals. Two are in Revelation: the woman who has borne a son spends 1260 days in the wilderness (history proper is between the good and power secular and cleric, with the righteous fighting one, then the other and then both in periods of equal duration while the stage is set for the final battle; this is three "rounds," as it were, of 420 years each [this absorbs the incidental numbers, seven times ten times six three times] with Israel sidelined); the adversary is bound for 1000 years (discrete conflicts are enabled by the revelation's entry into Rome at the bottom, delaying the advent of the cleric a millennium; the secular's demise ending round one takes it out of the picture just as long). From 30 CE as the given state, this gives us 450 for the end of the secular, 1030 for the birth of the cleric, 1450 for the rebirth of the secular and 1870 for the emergence of Israel from the wilderness.
The final numbers are in Daniel: from the end of the daily sacrifice (70) to the abomination, 1290 days (numbering from 30, the abomination occurs at 1330); blessed are they who see the end of 1335 days. If 1870 is 1260, these are 1940 and 1945. This could seem like a card trick (running violently counter to common sense, its precision increasing with the passage of time; that Planet Auschwitz was part of any purpose, much less that it was slated, dated, is repellent; this is an utterly undetermined sequence of events, scripted in advance, made implicit in a given state of cultural confrontation so each turn comes on cue and shocks those involved; the head can't hold it all at once or settle on any element to test; computer modeling and years of analysis might demonstrate that the odds against coincidence here--four numbers in the briefest context working so elegantly as a crib for a history of millennia--are long indeed and even that might not quell incredulity), but there's one more piece to the puzzle, just as brief but tying the whole together with such awful economy and force that there's no escaping it. It's history in a byte: the Passion was a play the first time.
Given the paradigmatic relationship between Israel and empire, with its elaborate context the story of the man who thought he was messiah (never God, never told his friends to pretend they were drinking his blood) was bound to play Rome and undergo a specific rewrite (its metamorphosis encoded surely as a caterpillar's) on its way there, become the precise misapprehension history required. Deicide hadn't happened but would, when a people which had for millennia maintained an expectation of messiah rejected him when he appeared, killed him or acquiesced--and failed to recognize him even when he rose from the dead. Whatever shared experience of a friend returned energized the sect in Jerusalem, the resurrection on the third day is ultimately a prediction that Israel would be reborn in 1948.
With Israel given forty years to emerge from the wilderness, the focus
is on 1910 when, eschatology aside, given merely the perspective of a disinterested
observer, a snapshot of the human condition shows a negative charge so
large that were justice to approach nothing could remain, and only one
way out: whitey has dues to pay, hard time to do. The end is
three woes in which this occurs, so, with world woes one and two having
reduced the negativity over there, over there (apocalypse is .666 past,
including that part: we had to know what evil lurks and in that nocturnal
event, to which everything had tended all the while, the criminal showed
his face, filled with fear and hatred of life itself), we're nearly there
but the slate's not clean and the outcome which would satisfyingly release
the remaining tension is now narrower. In two socalled world wars
the combatants but not the combat spanned the globe and twice Babylon (queen
on her throne indeed) behaved badly--suffered negligibly, reaped enormous
rewards greedily, self-righteously. She's been through the century
unchastened and what she missed was, however regrettable, necessary.
It didn't accompany phylogeny, but was the motion itself. Your flesh
has to crawl before it can walk and the debt must discharged. Since
Babylon thinks mourning and widowhood are not for her, her plagues will
all strike her at once. And anyway, if history has a rising action
the next big thing must be an event of just such a magnitude.