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Posts Tagged ‘diane duane’

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Apocalypse. That’s what you’re supposed to do during Advent, right? Think about the four last things, death judgment heaven and hell, and about the end of everything. The Daily Office readings for the past two weeks have encouraged this line of thought: from the Old Testament, the fierce denunciations of Amos, promising retribution to a self-indulgent society that exploits the poor for its own pleasures; from the New Testament, the letters to the seven churches that open John’s Revelations; and from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’s predictions of the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem.

The Scriptures are pretty clear and consistent in teaching that God is going to manifest his will for creation in a decisive way that involves cleaning up messes, putting things to rights, permanently dethroning those who have abused power, and getting everything the way he wants it. This decisive action, which may look pretty violent, is going to be the end of the world we know, but also the beginning of something very new. I don’t see how one can be a Christian and not take this teaching seriously.

But the doctrine of the Apocalypse, the unveiling of God’s will for creation, the end of the old broken world and the beginning of a new one, is kind of out of favor right now. On the one hand, there are large segments of the Church, particularly in American Evangelical Christianity, that are obsessed with it, to the exclusion of everything but abortion and homosexuality (which are apparently going to bring about the Apocalypse). On the other hand, I think there are large segments of the Church that are embarrassed by their brethren’s over-emphasis on the doctrine and prefer not to talk about it. Apocalypse? what’s that? That’s just something from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode; averting the Apocalypse is what Buffy and her friends did on a weekly basis.

In his 2012 book Apocalypse Not, pagan and occultist John Michael Greer makes the case that the Apocalypse meme, as he calls it, derives from the Persian priest Zoroaster, who looked at the myths of cosmic regime change represented by the precession of the equinoxes and decided there would be a final, decisive cosmic change, in which the good god of light would prevail over the evil god of darkness and there would be no change. Greer sees the Apocalypse meme as an inherently punitive one; the believer in Apocalypse looks at the world and anticipates the day when everyone who doesn’t think, believe, feel, act like him will be punished, dramatically. He also points out that if Jesus was, as many scholars think, predicting the end of Jerusalem and the Temple in his apocalyptic prophecies, then he is in the very small group of seers whose predictions have verifiably come true.

My understanding of the Apocalypse, and of the four last things, does not require me to gloat over the torments of people who come out on the wrong side of the final battle. What has helped me lately to sort out my thinking on the end of the world is some works of fiction: The Last Battle, the final Narnia book by C.S. Lewis, and the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane.

The Last Battle is Lewis’s Narnian Apocalypse. In the previous book, The Magician’s Nephew, we saw Narnia created; now we see it destroyed. There is corruption and abuse of power; there is personal and social evil which must be resisted, even opposed with force of arms. But there is also the sense that Narnia’s time has simply run out. It was not meant to last forever. And in a sense, it will last forever as part of Aslan’s Country, the heaven into which the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve enter through their experience of Narnia. Narnia is a region in heaven just as England is, a dimension of God’s love and knowledge of creation.

Duane’s Young Wizards series comes at the issue of beginnings and endings from a partly mythic, partly scientific point of view. In Duane’s universe, the central moral issue is entropy. The universe does not contain enough energy to last forever; every action, every reaction, every transaction causes a loss of energy to the total system. Some things, however, cause a greater loss of energy than others, and thus further entropy. Cruelty, greed, indifference speed up the eventual heat-death of the universe. Kindness, compassion, helping slow it down and put it off.

Duane’s wizards are specialists in slowing down entropy by helping others. Their magic works with the actual physics of the universe and consists, to a great extent, of formal and informal persuasion, often of entities that ordinary people assume are insentient (such as locks on doors, old automobiles, and electronics made in Japan). But their work brings them into direct, often deadly conflict with the being who invented entropy in the first place, the one they call the Lone Power.  The Lone Power (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch in physical manifestation) is the angelic being who introduced death and entropy into the cosmos, and he continues to peddle his inventions like a sort of travelling salesman, showing up whenever a species achieves the threshold of moral choice.

The universe of the Young Wizards is one very, very like our own, with the same sort of problems, the same sort of moral choices. And it’s a universe that’s slowly running down, like a wind-up toy–and so is ours. While the job of a wizard is to put off that final decay as long as possible, there’s also a glimpse of what will happen when the universe finally dies: The One, and the Powers That Be, and the wizards who have worked with them, will make a new universe without entropy, in which death, pain, suffering, decay, and loss are no longer an integral part of the scheme.

The universe is running out of energy. Our individual lives are running out of time. I won’t live forever, you won’t live forever, and the universe won’t last forever. What happens then? The vacuum of no time, no space, no being, where once was an entropic cosmos? Or the glory which is Heaven, Timeheart, Aslan’s Country? I believe in the Apocalypse because I believe in the latter option. I believe that God will start things over with a new story.

I don’t believe, though, that the end of the world as we know it will necessarily involve God finally strong-arming the human race into believing, submitting, and accepting due punishment. I don’t think the Apocalypse will look like we expect it to any more than the first coming of the Lord looked like it was expected to. And I don’t think the God who entered into a cluster of cells in a girl’s womb, was born in poverty and obscurity, and submitted to public execution is going to turn out to be a merciless bully when the veil is pulled back and his intentions are carried out. It wiil be the end of the world as we don’t know it and never imagined it, what eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard.

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  1. The Soprano Wore Falsettos by Mark Schweizer
  2. The Bass Wore Scales by Mark Schweizer
  3. The Mezzo Wore Mink by Mark Schweizer
  4. Star Trek Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions by David Mack
  5. Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods
  6. The Old Sod: The Odd Life and Inner Work of William G. Gray by Marcus Claridge & Alan Richardson
  7. Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Soul Key by Olivia Woods
  8. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

I continue to work my way through Mark Schweizer’s hilarious Liturgical Mysteries series. If you are a church musician or an Episcopalian, and especially if you happen to be both, these books will make you laugh out loud because everything wacky and insane about them is not only truth but fact. Add in the deliberately bad homages to Raymond Chandler, and what’s not to love?

I started reading Star Trek professional tie-in novels when they first began to appear in the 1980s. That era produced some incredibly creative expansions of the Original Series universe, notably Diane Duane’s Rihannsu series and John M. Ford’s two brilliant, unforgettable efforts, The Final Reflection and How Much for Just the Planet? Now that I’ve watched the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I am really enjoying the novels that continue the storyline of the series and interweave the DS9 characters and canon with the Next Generation and Voyager. Sisko, Kira, Quark, and the rest continue to engage my heart and mind.

I am ashamed to admit, however, that until this very instance, I had never read any Sherlock Holmes. Yes, you may scold me. I’m not sure how I missed him. Come to think of it, I haven’t read any of Conan Doyle’s non-Holmes fiction, either. My acquaintance with Holmes, outside of a general acquaintance such as a non-Trekkie might have with Star Trek, only goes back five years or so, when my local PBS station began re-running the excellent Granada Television series starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes. For a while, Tuesday nights meant Holmes followed by Poirot–a soothing evening of period costumes, period furniture, and crack acting.

I am agreeably surprised at how readable and engaging A Study in Scarlet is. (Yes, you may scold me again.) ACD knew how to draw a reader in, that’s for sure. It is positively restful to the brain to read something by a writer who had never been told not to use adverbs or to avoid all dialogue tags except “he said”. It was also interesting to see the architecture behind the new BBC Sherlock episode “A Study in Pink” and observe what Moffat & Gatiss cut, what they kept, and how they transformed it.

And I have just bought a Kindle edition of the works of H. Rider Haggard. Heigh-ho for Victorian authors!

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  1. Star Trek, especially the Original Series and Deep Space Nine
  2. The animated Batman universe created by Paul Dini
  3. Ridiculous Britcoms, especially As Time Goes By (not very ridiculous, actually) and Are You Being Served? (probably the lowest point of British humour)
  4. Redheads of both sexes
  5. Strong black tea with abundant milk and sweetener
  6. Early jazz, such as Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Django Reinhardt
  7. Big band and swing music
  8. Chocolate
  9. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, but no other novels featuring vampires
  10. Male Submission Art (you may not want to click here if your boss, your little child, or your mom or dad is hovering around)
  11. Diane Duane’s Young Wizards novels
  12. Colin Morgan and Bradley James of the BBC’s Merlin
  13. Swords

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This was the morning that always comes upon me this time of year: The morning when I feel I just can’t face the world and its demands of me without the consolation of hearing A Charlie Brown Christmas before I go out.  I played twice through Vince Guaraldi’s priceless score as I ate some yogurt, drank three mugs of tea, showered, dressed, and made my devotions.  It never fails to buoy me up.

My Tarot oracle for the day was The Sun, and so far it has been a good omen: Sunny skies, a cheerful mood, a work problem that dissolved away without being touched, and some light magical work inspired by the trump.

Despite my usual rantings on the subjects of Advent, commercialization, and the value of stillness and darkness, I’ve been finding the increasing presence of lights and decorations a comfort as I walk home in the early dark after a busy work day.  In the library department next door to my own, the tree which was put up last year at this time has been decorated once again for Christmas, after cycling through Valentine’s Day (hearts and doves), St. Patrick’s Day (shamrocks), Easter (eggs and birds), summertime (flowers, butterflies, and gardening implements), Halloween (autumn leaves and things with a raven on top), and Thanksgiving (raven was replaced by turkey).

Another comfort has been pulling out our DVD collection from the first season of Babylon 5, perhaps the best science fiction television series ever made.  J. Michael Straczynski, its producer, who also wrote most of the episodes for its five seasons, described it as “a novel for television”, and to begin watching it all over again is very like sinking into a cozy armchair with your favorite sprawling masterpiece of fiction open on your lap.  I am amazed to discover that there seem to be episodes in the first season that I’ve never seen, or at least, I don’t remember them, whereas there are many episodes I recall almost word-for-word.  (“What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?”)  If Star Trek is a celebration of secular humanist values, and Star Wars’ imagery owes much to Eastern wisdom traditions, Babylon 5 is The Lord of the Rings in Space, an epic drama with aliens and starships that incorporates many of the classic mythic and legendary elements of Western literature, including explicit Arthurian references.  And so it begins.  *g*

I finished re-reading another of Diane Duane’s Young Wizard novels yesterday, A Wizard Alone, in which protagonists Nita and Kit find themselves working separately to help a potential wizard who’s an autistic boy.  I have a post under construction about this series of novels which I hope will see daylight and be seen by readers before Christmas.  And today I started Passage, the third book of the Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold, who does love her wounded heroes.

I will leave you for now with a reminder to slow down and breathe deeply when it feels like it’s all too much, and to get as much sunlight as you can on these short days.  Solstice is coming.  The earth turns toward the light.

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