Σάββατο, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2013

Of Locusts and Crickets.....

''Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.'' (Apocalypse , ch. 9)

    


  It is often tempting to take such a description literally. It is actually quiet cinematic; and we love a good disaster movie nowadays it seems (I'll have to write a blog about all the times New York has been destroyed either on film or on paper. Next time...). Most people read the Revelation that way, like an alternative comic book, full of dragons and epic battles. There is a reason though it is placed at the end of the New Testament. It should be the actual last book you read after the rest of them.
 It is not my intention to present here a full theological review of the Revelation. Wiser and holier men have done that before me over the centuries. But as I was reading the above chapter some thoughts came to my head. The image of the chapter sounds familiar  and it's definately not because of any locusts (though I could tell you a story or two about cockroaches). No, the familiarity came from the feeling of those men, a feeling I see more and more around me. " In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them".
 Our Age has romanticised Death like seldom before. It's even evident in trivial - or seemingly trivial -  things like pop culture. Vampires and all sorts of monsters used to represent humanity's caution and apprehention of Death. For young people now it's something to fall in love with. As I noted pop culture is not really trivial. It represents our collective attitude towards life. We learn more about the past and our ancectral history from their Myths and books and overall tradition than we learn from unearthing yet another pillar from an ancient ruin. There's nothing quiet as immortal as Myth. So, returning to the previous example we notice one more detail. Vampires have been sanitized so they can be more approachable. No surprise, so has Death. People seem obsessed with Death but in truth it's a sanitized version of Death they love - harmless, painless and - ultimately - meaningless.
   The people in Revelation seek death. They ''desire" death. But it escapes them. Is it because God won't let them die? Is there a Cosmic barrier against, say, suicide or have men suddenly done a Duncan Mc Leod and become immortal? I don't think so. Men desire death but at the same time they're afraid of Her (yes, Her. Death must be a woman surely. At least Jim Starlin thinks so). They do not comprehend its true meaning if indeed they can find within it (sorry, her) any meaning at all. So they will eternally be afraid of dying. This strange infatuation with morbidity exists as long as long as it remains superficial. When the true horror of death makes its presence felt we flee away. In simpler terms, vampires become scary again.
   It is very imporetant to notice what it is that makes people so afraid that they should want to give up life. The locusts themselves are pretty harmless to humans but extremly harmful for crops. Here we see a reverse situation. They harm not the grass but Man. Perhaps that signifies that this is not a Divine Punishment but rather a consequense of our own actions. It would be easy to pin that down to, say, pollution and abuse of the Earth and it wouldn't be wrong. It wouldn't be entirely correct to limit it so in scope either. In any case Locusts (even of the hellish variety it seems) remain distinctly non-lethal. Even the time they are allowed to torment people is relatively short in Biblical terms. Just a short five months, compared to the usual 7 years and 1.000 years we usually see elsewhwere in the scriptures (all symbolic of course). Yet man reacts in an extreme way to what seems an uncomfortable yet timid punishment. The only way out is death, or rather the idea of death since, as we saw, the reality of it makes them flee...where?
  Ultimately, what happens in that chapter that is pretty resonant today is that God allows people to suffer the consequences of their own actions, either on a personal or social level (the two go hand in hand). Faced with the reality of those actions, Man hurts. Reality bites, like locusts with the power of scorpions. Yet, it is a great chance to re-evaluate your life. Paying the price is not only a punishment, it is also a lesson. The ancient greek word is the same for both. "Παιδεύω" means "punish" as well as "educate". Facing our demons, here in the form of locusts, means we can conquer them. Instead Man seeks the way out, never looking at himself but facing death without courrage. Because you can't truly face the End without having conquered your demons first. Death will flee from you, Salvation will flee from you and you will be left alone, fleeing towards nowhere in particular. The men with the seal of God on their foreheads are not some kind of Chosen Ones, they're just the people who have faced themselves, beat their demons and have found God's peace in their hearts (in other words, "His seal").
  We will face many locusts and one way to face them is if we talk to our little Cricket, our consience. Or we can blame it all on him and watch Twilight marathons instead. Now, that's more cruel punishment than any locust from hell! Oh, and I could be wrong about it all. Maybe the smoke that releases the locusts is that smoke guy from "Lost".That was actually a bigger puzzle than the Revelation...!

    

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