Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pop Goes the World

If I stood on the concrete outside the boxy, modern-looking fine arts complex at Canyon del Oro High School northwest of Tucson, and looked south toward Mexico, I believed I would see it, that it would be the last thing I would ever see: a flash of light as the nuclear missiles from Russia detonated over Davis Monthan Air Force Base. It was 1988, I was 17 years old, and I believed that the world was about to end. Not in a couple of days, or a week, or this year, or before I graduated. Today.

The madness of absolute certainty had gripped me that morning. Awakening from a dream perhaps, or maybe after church youth group the night before. I wasn't sure where the idea had come from, only that it was unquestionably true. I could feel the truth of it humming in the center of my chest, fizzing around the edges of my brain. I was glorious with it. The day glowed with edges and shadows sharper than the usual razors of Arizona sunshine. 

The fact that everyone went about their days without panic, with no sense of the horrible destruction about to rain down upon us, only served to further confirm my knowledge. I couldn't tell anyone, of course. They would never believe me. I had been given this knowledge, not because anything could be done, but as a gift, from God. I could say goodbye to the people I loved, my friends and family, I could ask for forgiveness for my many sins, offer my paltry soul to Jesus for safekeeping, and die, hopefully instantly, in the fiery inferno descending on us all from the clean blue sky. 

I was one of the lucky ones.

I walked around in pious, giddy sorrow for almost three days, joyously mourning every person, every beloved thing I came in contact with. My heartfelt farewells at every parting with every friend might have raised a few eyebrows, were I not already a little (a lot) weird. Nobody probably gave my doe-eyed departures a second thought.

It was the end of days! Finally! No more depression. No more unrequited crushes on almost every woman I was friends with, had ever met, or had read about in a book or seen on a screen. No more the inescapable weight of guilt every time I masturbated to pornography, skipped class, wrote poetry instead of doing homework. No more impossible to fulfill expectations of success, and, finally, no more "potential." I would never disappoint anyone ever again. I would be free. All God had to do was kill the world.

I wondered, briefly, if there would be a mix of the bloody biblical grotesqueries I was so fond of reading about in the Book of Revelations, the ones my youth group leaned on when they wanted to spice up bible study, and the hard science fiction of nuclear holocaust I knew so well from television and movies. Would Jesus come before or after the mushroom cloud? Would the Devil ride down from his kingdom in the air on a Soviet bomb to do ultimately fruitless battle with angels and principalities before he inevitably succumbed to the powers of Good?

Not my problem. Here come the jets. 

The hardest thing about prophecies that don't come true is the moment of double vision where two worlds exist simultaneously. There's the world where the prophecy is going to come true, absolutely, without question. This world is luminous with meaning, fraught with portent.

Then, superimposed over this world, off by just the fraction of a degree necessary to require a choice between them, is the other world. A world in which none of that shit is happening at all. This world has the benefit of continuance, but it is terrifying in its uncertainty, and it is meaningless, 

One morning a few days after my vision of a world cleansed in nuclear fire, I woke up and realized that it just wasn't going to happen for me. The bombs, despite my hopes, were not going to fall. Jesus wasn't coming back, no matter how bad tensions in the Middle East got. I saw the world of prophecy, and the world that was, and I knew I just didn't have the energy to sustain that kind of crazy. I started going to class again. I thought about applying to college. The sun continued to rise. 

All of this is to segue into this song by Scritti Politti, It's called "Overnite" and I'm pretty sure it's about someone who believes the world is going to end. I've done my research, and nobody else seems to subscribe to this theory, nor are there interviews with its author, Green Gartside (the "Green" of "Tell us about it, Green" in the lyrics), confirming it, but none of that matters. The guy who believes, against all evidence, that the world is going to end via nuclear conflagration in the middle of his senior year of high school clearly isn't looking for validation. It's just a theory, and a beautiful song. As the song says, "Check it out."

Overnite - Scritti Politti

When I was seventeen (Tell us about it Green)
There was a world to know about (Check it out)
Everyday she'd call me (What'd she say?)
Is it over yet? Do you love me?

Overnite - and while your troubles away
Under the stars up above - I'll build you another day
Close your eyes - I'll be home before it's light
And all the tears you cry - will dry in the dead of night

And now I'm in between (Tell us about it Green)
It all became a mystery (Check it out)
Everyday she calls me (What does she say?)
It is over yet? Do you believe them?

Overnite - and while your troubles away
Under the stars up above - I'll build you another day
Close your eyes - I'll be home before it's light
And all the fears you have - will die in the dead of night

Someday - maybe soon - we could show them a way
I would love just to watch it falling
Oh my pretty one - show me a way

Overnite - I heard a satellite say
There'll be a wind from the west - to blow all your dreams away
Close your eyes - and maybe before it's light
Oh all the hopes that you have - will die in the dead of night

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