The bartender I am probably falling in love with hands me a copy of the first issue of an independent cinema newspaper. How long has it been since I have handled physical newsprint? A year? The ambition and lunacy actually impresses me. I can guarantee that the founder will burn through all his money very quickly. Apparently his previous business was an arthouse cinema so I am not sure he cares.
My bartender is Russian. He came over to see a band a few years ago and stayed. Last year he graduated from film school and now works at a private basement tequila bar in the heart of Soho. We talk about Jim Jarmusch and Francois Truffaut then I tell him there is probably at least some fire behind all the Kubrick conspirasmoke. Yeah... so I have a huge crush. Surely 33 is too young to become one of those creepy old homos that haunt Soho and leer at bartenders? Guess not.
Sitting at the bar, I flip through the newspaper, talk film and wait for my friend to show up, while drinking mescal and vaping on an e-cigarette. I have just come from my preposterously expensive gym a couple of blocks away. Expensive like I assume I could rent a house in North Wales for less money. Not for the first time, not even for the first time in the last ten minutes, it occurs to me that my life is absurd.
But so is yours. So is everybody's. Terence McKenna once said words to the effect of "the problem is not to find the answer, it's to face the answer." Today we can only LARP normality and stability because they no longer exist. We can LARP or we can ignore it... which strikes me as evidencing far greater psychological instability. This is the difference between the sleepwalker and the sleepwalker who is lucid dreaming.
“How did you go bankrupt?"
"Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” - Ernest Hemingway
Where do you suppose the West is on the above Hemingway spectrum? At least half of the emails I receive somewhere contain the question of precisely what we should do about things. This is looking for the answer, this is not facing the answer. The answer, as Peter and Alkistis point out in their Find The Others... is the eschaton. And because it is always Tolkien o'clock around here:
Where now are the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the harp on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?
In the neckbeardier corners of these internets (ie the whole internet), you often see articles sharing newspaper opinion columns from a century bemoaning the decline in literacy, education, letter writing, culture, etc. The implication being LOLZ THEY'RE ALWAYS SAYING THAT CARRY ON TEXT-SPEAKING ON FACEBOOK YOU DEBT-RIDDEN PEONS.
Except if you had a time machine -or were even educated enough to type a phrase into a search engine- you would be able to travel back to Victorian workhouses where the unfortunate occupants were reading Dickens. Not all of them, obviously, but seriously... they loved that shit. He wrote about poor people struggling in London, for a start. Their escape from their grim reality was an author who is pretty much only taught at a university level now. When was the last time you read any Dickens? So yes... people were concerned about things like public literacy and culture a century ago. But then they did things about it. Today, we get told that everything is fine and it is the concern that is ignorant and abnormal... even as more and more university students arrive on campus with a complete inability to spell their own ridiculous, misspelled-on-the-birth-certificate names.
There is a similar lack of sophistication surrounding eschatology in the occult. For many it looks like a holdover from whatever freaky Christian group the magician was raised in. Yes, there have always been a few groups who thought the end of the world was nigh. Do you think that's what is happening today? What does it feel like to you? Does the wholesale collapse of the productive economy and biosphere feel like a wacky idea subscribed to by a few fringe groups living in some rapey valleys somewhere? Or could things actually be ending? What is more abnormal? The concern or the lack of it?
Eschatology is not a personal holdover of Christian mythology. It is part of Christian mythology because it is older. There are solid archaeological and genetic reasons why most of the common pagan mythologies getting around today start with a creation story that involves a tree or a dragon (often both) and ends with the destruction of the earth. It is because western European cultures inherited an older, Eurasian layer of measuring time in epochs, in eras. The classical gods destroyed the previous regime and, in many cases, built the new one out of their literal remains.
Let me tell you what the actual ideological holdover really is. It is the preposterous monocultural belief that things will carry on getting better, that little ol' you can make a difference by, what? Recycling? A phone tree? Deciding not to buy Israeli produce? (The futility of that last one annoys me so much I now actively seek out Israeli produce.)
The Easter egg in the Tolkien quote is, naturally, the horse. We got the horse from the same area and at the same time we got our mythological calendrical system of measuring the universe in epochs. For me, the resonance in the words is that they merely refract through fiction on their way back to that true echo of the ending of all things.
Stop finding the answer. Finding the answer is shopping for stain remover. Face the answer. Re-absorb the eschaton into your personal mythology and watch how it revalues every moment and priority in your life. Diving on the Japanese fleet sunk in Chuuk Lagoon, the most common item you see are sake bottles. They're everywhere. They're all over the floor of the bridge. Yes, glass survives longer than shoes. But what would you expect to find? The Americans flew a reconnaissance plane over the afternoon before. It was a supply fleet so they were largely defenceless. Must have been one heck of a party that final night.
Suddenly talking about The 400 Blows over mescal on a Monday night doesn't seem quite so obscene. The eschaton is a time to choose culture and awareness over reality TV and arguing on facestalk. That way maybe they will be the last gods to die.