It worries me that my first instinct for an apocalypse might be to find Bill Murray.
Or maybe not. I realise that he’s trying to instil panic at that point, but that’s not always going to be the most versatile skill. Panic usually means unpredictability, and if seas really are boiling, then we probably want to work out a more practical plan.
Or is that a bland response. I don’t know if I’m really the survivalist type, so maybe I should just give up, assume I’ve only got a few days left, so I may as well try and make them as entertaining as possible. Which definitely brings me back to ‘let’s find Bill Murray’ territory.
It’s odd that we still use the bible to summon up our disaster imagery. I guess that’s part of the universalism of being such a foundational text to a society. I can’t say I’ve read much of the old testament (managed the beginning of Genesis once, but lost motivation fairly quickly), but its interesting that we mostly remember the gory bits. Pillars of salt, the judgement of Solomon, the flooding of the world, rivers of blood.
I think the only other bits I even know in any detail are the burning bush and the bit about spilling seed and not eating shellfish, mostly for political reasons.
So the Old Testament becomes a horror story in the popular mindset, as opposed to an exploration of the nature of faith and belief.
I definitely find it easier to grasp the gospel that the OT, which is probably why that brand of religiosity is more popular, a simpler narrative, a stronger brand identity.
You still eventually culminate in apocalyptic visions, and again, these are the things that stick in the mind. The four horsement, the seven headed dragon, all that other stuff from the Omen.
Its weird that we view so much of our history through the lens of pop culture. We’re used to referring to things only in terms of the references that have been made to them. It’s like that feeling I have of knowing what it is like in America because I’ve spent so much time watching television and films set there. The High School in particular, feels like something I know intimately, despite having never been.
The same happens here. Where I see the bible not through half remembered school lessons, but through pisstaking exaggeration in Ghostbusters.
And so we have post-modernism. The world in which conceptual cats and dogs really do live together (which is definitely something that happens). Everything is reflected through a series of lenses, multiplied, distorted and reformed so many time that we can no longer rely on a truth at the centre. The Old Testament stops being a scroll of ancient knowledge and becomes a reinterpreted text, inseparable from its multiple readings, ramifications and representations.
If I knew there was going to be an outbreak of postmodernism of biblical proportions, I’d be looking for Bill Murray.
Illustration by Maria