Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pop Apocalypse (Re-Post)

This is a reposting, with some revision, of a post that originally was posted in 2007. It seems a fitting post for the year's closing time, when we all look to the future.

A distinction can sometimes be made in the apocalypse genre between dark apocalypses and gentle apocalypses; they both exhibit the Final Judgment but in different ways. It's interesting to compare in this regard two of Leonard Cohen's songs from his album The Future: The Future and Closing Time.

"The Future" is a dark apocalypse. In the future mankind has become fundamentally corrupt:

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said Repent Repent
I wonder what they meant

It's therefore no surprise that God's judgment is correspondingly harsh:

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future: it is murder.

Mankind is in hell, a hell so terrible that we would rather have the evils we have now; but humanity deserves every bit of the future it has made for itself.

We get a different apocalypse in "Closing Time". There, too, the human race has piled its sins high; there, too, the Final Judgment comes, bringing hell with it. But it's pictured in terms of a drunken humanity getting busted by the cops because "the Boss don't like these dizzy heights." And the tone is one of bittersweet resignation:

And I loved you when our love was blessed
and I love you now there's nothing left
but sorrow and a sense of overtime
and I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don't care what happens next
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it's something in between, I guess
it's closing time.

It's closing time; the drunks are all being thrown out of the bar. It's hell; but here it is almost a relief, something between freedom and death, because the party has gone on too long and, despite its highlights, maybe wasn't all that great anyway.

and I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can't reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn't worth a dime

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