on apocalypses

an old barn with fading red paint beside a large tree, against a midwest summer stormcloud background

cw: existential dread, discussion of death

Okay, so 1HOKAY SO, HERE’S THE EARTH — — hear me out — several things have collided in my mind and it’s taken me some time to follow the string to the middle of the tangled mess of yarn, with the yarn being a metaphor for this wide expanse of a topic.

apocalypse: can we outrun the consequences of what we’ve done?

I’ve recently been playing a lot of Death Stranding, which has both the quality of nostalgia and the hopeless hope that remains at the end of the world, stubbornly trying to put the pieces back together anyway — and what that costs; I’m reading the book The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions 2by Peter Brannen; Bookshop link, which includes, so far, a hell of a lot of evolutionary history I never learned in school, the tone of which is fascinatingly hopeful; I’m on Twitter pretty much daily, so *gestures vaguely at everything*; and my Spotify algorithm has been really good today, which means a lovely selection of music on death, queer experience, and things that end but don’t disappear.

apocalypse: ‘so much death. what can men do against such reckless hate?’

In trying to wrap my head around these apocalypses, I have to acknowledge that my worldview is essentially the way I understand what I’ve learned, and am still learning, in my tradition. It seems our purpose is to paradoxically bring light to the world (one person at a time, let’s not be ridiculous) but not die trying. How can we be the light when the dark has such sharp teeth? With apocalypse on my mind almost continuously, there’s been a lot of personal soul-searching about whether it’s worth trying to keep our shit together and to help whomever we can, if everything is ending anyway. And I wrote a whole thing wondering about whether or not the world will actually end.

(the quote in the paragraph heading above is by Theoden, King of the Rohirrim, before riding out from the ruins of Helm’s Deep to certain doom) 3a video clip containing this quote and its context; gives me chills every time. ‘the horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the Deep, one last time! … let this be the hour where we draw swords together … fell deeds awake! now for wrath! now for ruin! and a red dawn!

apocalypse: even the gods change

Whether it ends or not, everything has already changed and is still changing. The world will never be what it was before, and I don’t just mean the physical world and our social and cultural structures; for me and others like me, it also means that our gods and ancestors are deciding what change means for them as well, and we are all experiencing our way through it together. I am grateful for the work I’ve done in building relationships with my deities, because it’s slightly less terrifying to feel that pull toward the unknown that is in the process of becoming, knowing that we’re going there together.

I don’t have any theological proof for this thought; it’s just mine, and maybe other people are feeling the same way. It makes sense to me and I think we need things that make sense to us, in order to hold onto them when shit gets scary.

apocalypse: we are waiting in line for our turn to die

I’m a queer person who came late to my queer identity, and I’m still finding the shape of it. I think that part of a cultural backlash against white American heteropatriarchy meant that a hell of a lot of us discovered that the reason we don’t fit is that we’re REALLY FUCKING GAY. Unfortunately, as much as we fight to be seen, to be loved, to at least be let alone to exist, we are harmed. As a deathworker, I spend maybe too much time thinking about all the ways our lives are extinguished and how many of us there are, how many are dying instead of living, alone instead of held in community, fumbling our way through a rotting capitalist culture that uses black, brown, indigenous, and queer bodies to climb high enough to keep the kyriarchy alive. There is great love in our chosen families, and there is risk of great harm, every day that we show up however it is that we show up. Not all of us are visibly queer, but we can’t stay hidden forever.

Love us as we are

See us and we’re holy

In this shall we shall ever be

Wholly ourselves

Your love will take us far

Praise us and we’ll show you

From heaven to the glory holes

Glorious and free

The Queer Gospel by Erin McKeown

apocalypse: rage against the machine

The current balance of the world feels very much, at least from this very western mindset, as if it is trying to tip into unchecked evil. We wail and beat our chests and do our best to remember all the names of those who died unjustly in an unjust society in an unjust world, while screaming as loud as we can that we deserve to live. We deserve fair reciprocity for our work. We deserve healthcare that honors our bodies. We deserve enough to eat. We deserve community that brings us together and becomes the way to address our differences without violence. We deserve to have promises kept and treaties honored. We deserve to live in a society where the disabled can thrive without having to fight so hard for the barest necessities. We deserve to see ourselves reflected in our mass media, in our social networks, at our jobs. We deserve to unionize, to abolish our carceral system, to free ourselves and free one another. 4the timeless anthem Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.

Ursula K. Le Guin

apocalypse: the beginning is the end is the beginning

I have no memory of ever living through a world’s end. I don’t know how it works, what it’s meant to feel like, or how to find those answers. As a practicing witch, there are many things that I can see at least the shape or feeling of, but this is more nebulous than anything else I’ve tried to look at.

I think that apocalypse must be — like being born, like the last breath of life, like orgasm, like childbirth, like an initiation, like nearly-dying but not quite — one of the great mysteries. We can’t know what it is until we have experienced it. But there are tiny bits of light and hope here and there, written in song lyrics and in books by people who also didn’t exactly know what was going to happen next.

To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.

Ursula K. Le Guin, from The Left Hand of Darkness

apocalypse of the self

It’s an existential crisis inside an existential crisis out here. I think most of us have come to that conclusion. And we keep waking up every day, doing stuff, maybe doing more stuff, looking for the things that might comfort us, asking the world for meaning, and then we lie in bed and either fall asleep or stare up and wonder what the planet would be like if we were all gone.

I made a playlist while I was thinking about writing this, and here it is so you can listen to some of the puzzle pieces that made sense to me:

I really want to hear what you’re thinking about after reading this. I don’t think we can figure any of this out individually; we need each other. We need each other’s questions and we need each other’s answers and thoughts and additional questions.

Thank you for being here with me.

featured image is a photo by benjamin lehman on Unsplash


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    by Peter Brannen; Bookshop link
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    a video clip containing this quote and its context; gives me chills every time. ‘the horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the Deep, one last time! … let this be the hour where we draw swords together … fell deeds awake! now for wrath! now for ruin! and a red dawn!
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    the timeless anthem Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine
Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.

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