rapture vs. recycling

Posted by on June 12, 2006


When I was a teenager, I was an evangelical through and through, and my worldview was entirely apocalyptic. I mean “world” and “view” literally. My mind made sense of the world through vivid images which talented preachers had layered, word by descriptive word, into the folds of my imagination. These descriptions were mainly based on the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic biblical passages. So my mind saw the surface of the earth as covered with a roiling sea of humanity, ever generating evils that it did not itself understand because of its spiritual blindness and deafness. The whore, who represented false religion, was riding the back of the beast, which represented the governments and powers of this world, and she was drunk off the blood of the martyrs. I was confident that this scenario, so powerfully depicted in this image, was playing itself out again and again and again throughout the world right now, as it had throughout history, and perhaps getting worse each time it cycled through. In this way I made a general sense of everything I observed, from current events like the AIDS epidemic, to the members of this “untoward” generation that filled the halls of my high school. I really, really believed that the rapture might happen any day, and I would be so glad to be swept up.

I can’t speak for everyone who holds such a worldview, but in me it made things horribly off kilter. I perceived everything, from extra curricular activities, to doing my chemistry homework, as futile. It was a road block in front of me that prevented me from believing that any creative endeavor was worthwhile. This might be fine if I weren’t by nature a creative person, but I am, and it harmed and depressed me to squelch that part of my personality. I think I also both resented and held in awe anyone my age who was taking a hobby seriously, like photography, or music. One thing I did avidly though was read the Bible. I was so biblically literate back then, that scripture played in my head, informing me left and right. And it just so happened that one of my favorite books was Ecclesiastes, which held sound bites like, “vanity of vanities,” and “this life is but a vapor,” (or was that Paul?). (I’m not as biblically astute as I used to be.) But seriously, no wonder I was depressed.

What does this have to do with recycling? I’m not sure how to write about the connection, especially when I’m trying to keep it short, knowing that no one wants to read a blog entry longer than three or four paragraphs. I only know that in my teenage brain, recycling would have seemed futile, because the whole world seemed like it was headed toward a cosmic trash compactor anyway. Or perhaps I was just counting on God himself, not us people (ensnared as we were within the dominating matrix of beast-whore interchange) to clean up the mess at a later date, when the trump would resound and the clouds be rolled back as a scroll. Maybe I still believe that God will do that someday. I’m not sure if I believe it, because I never actually think about it anymore. My apocalyptic imagination wore itself out years ago, and is now ruined for any sort of end time scenario whatsoever, so I happily leave those questions to believing minds more fit than mine. But I am delighted to find that I’ve become the type of person who can actually find meaning in things like recycling. This is certainly due, indirectly, to Orthodox theology, hymnography, and living Orthodox people who have influenced me, though I won’t go into the details on that.

In conclusion, I thought that a picture of the smiley faced recycling dumpsters above would make a nice contrast with my last post about deterioration. They are also an appropriate visual depiction of my relief and gladness over the discovery that I am no longer dogged by a sense of futility. I see creativity as worthwhile and necessary and even godly, and I think that exerting myself in the effort to do small, good things means everything.

  1. anna j
    June 14, 2006

    “whore of babylon” comes to mind along with happy being-with-Julia memories back in the days of Ocoee . . . 🙂
    i LOVE the photo–do you think i can place an order for happy-face recycling bins here in Chatt? Ours are terribly boring by comparison

  2. Lucy
    June 14, 2006

    Ah, this entry rocks. I love it. Not doing one’s chemistry homework because the rapture could come at any time: what cleverness.

    As a sidenote: the anabaptist’s apocalyptic vision included the whore neglectfully tossing garbage everywhere, so good little minnonites composted and sorted trash–proof that we’d be among those saved when the blood started flowing.