My co-worker Rita’s reaction to the recent protests – to this long season of disease, economic collapse, and a vengeful leader’s mean proclamations – was based on something her grandfather had told her on his deathbed. Read the Book of Revelations, he had said. Read it backwards.
I’ve heard others in the community speak about a second coming, but also heard there are those in our national administration who feel it can’t come fast enough. Rita has also had conversations with library patrons about the ways in which old black neighborhoods are being handed over to immigrants. That’s why everything given is being taken back again.
I tried Revelations, but chose to read interpretations rather than its convoluted words. Revelation means unveiling. Its incendiary account of seven seals, beasts, false gods, boiling seas of blood and mass destruction, with a thousand-year pause before it all happens again even worse, does read better backwards. Start at the end and all is well for believers; the bad’s been washed away and what’s left is heaven on earth. Much better than what D.H. Lawrence described as the book’s bleak and destructive “death-product.”
Rita’s from one of my city’s great black families. She claims 43 siblings begat by her gospel-singer father. She goes to church and prays regularly. and is also full of humor and quick to help anyone who really needs help. Better, in Rita and her friends’ eyes, to deal with the unknowable by concentrating on the willed-for, to fight a political nemesis with a promise for eternal judgment.
I‘ve long wished I could be a believer, but I’m content to respect those who need the comfort of a better end. Better than an apocalypse pushed by those who want my sort punished. I still live for and do all I can to promote and live with hope, however hopeless.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.