we live today with the sense that the apocalypse is underway. our world is a world lit by revelation. we believe we have seen our own end, that it has been revealed to us, for that is one meaning of the term apocalypse: to reveal, to uncover. when John of Patmos narrated his vision he gave us his apocalypse, and though it was rooted in his Christianity and even more in his time and his world, it is still now our most common exemplar of an apocalypse. this meaning of apocalypse, this revelation and uncovering of the end, is closer to our understanding of our world than we might think. while the generations and centuries before us found themselves, for the first time, living in a disenchanted universe, we are today the generations that hear and read daily that our world is ending. our politics and our science recite on an hourly basis the ways in which our world is falling apart, the ways in which the seams that supposedly bind us are fraying. our narratives are the narratives of fascism and environmental devastation, of greed and sexism and racism, of genocide and death, and our technology and inventiveness assure us that we are kept up to date. in one sense we read Patmos as a strange artifact from a strange time, enthralled by the language and the imagery, by the vision, but also contextualized by a belief singularly rooted in its time and only partially relevant to our own. but in another sense Patmos is our closest relative, our immediate predecessor in a lineage of vision: our world is a world of revelation, of revealing, of exposing – and we narrate that vision every day. the vocabulary and language of science is today the vocabulary and language of revelation. we have replaced the religious language of Patmos with the scientific language of academia, but they both happen to tell us the same thing: look to the horizon, the end is at hand. as the deserts spread and the ice sheets melt we begin to sense this end as something obvious and close and inevitable. we have evidence of course that deserts have expanded and contracted throughout the eons of time, that ice sheets have come and gone, but this time the losses are due to our way of life, our inability to think beyond our own greed and desires. so we again see the end as a kind of moral balancing act, just as the apocalypse in so many religions serves as a means for God or the gods to teach a lesson to the wayward. we have our prophets who are crying out, and of course we are not listening to them. our species is the species who grows accustomed to many things quite easily. we watch television and feel sorrow, perhaps even a little guilt, at the images of suffering, famine, war, disease – but this sorrow and guilt rarely morph into any attempt to alleviate that suffering. the horrible becomes familiar. the horrible becomes routine. the world seems a dangerous place, and we are grateful to escape much of that danger. instead we work diligently to try to hold on to the corner of this seeming paradise of ours, to try to shield those we love and care for from the world. of course, for some, that shielding failed, and the apocalypse has already come. it arrives in the form of an oppressor and murderer: the colonized minorities worldwide have seen their cultures all but vanish, their people brutalized, their languages annihilated. these peoples often lived in balance with their environment and with each other and have seen this balance replaced with the greed and ugliness of Western culture, the very same traits that threaten all cultures now. in some ways, then, the dream of the colonizers, of manifest destiny, has been very nearly realized: the near-omnipresent unity of Western values and practices, with every other culture forced into a position of service. but as with so many dreams of omnipresence, the failure of that omnipresence seems imminent, and due solely to itself and its own unsustainability. and so our vision of the end, our narrative of the nullified horizon, goes on.
Clark Chatlain has published poems and prose in several journals, most recently the anthology Poets Across the Big Sky II and the journals Natural Bridge and Burning House Press. He currently lives and works in Missoula, Montana. He blogs at microproseblog.wordpress.com.