Inquiry: Estrangement XXIII – The Apocalypse Gene

by LJ Frank

This series on estrangement seeks to understand some of the differing faces of estrangement and the crossroads it approaches for good or ill.

I was young. Too young? I graduated from high school in June 1962. The summer was tumultuous as was the remainder of the decade and my college years. I recall during the evening of October 22, 1962, (Cuban Missile Crisis) watching a speech on television by then President Kennedy in which in small part he stated: “The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.”

He also stated, in outlining the US response to a nuclear missile buildup in Cuba under section 3: “It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

It was a startling apocalyptic scenario. There would be many more scares but never televised with the same intense gut feeling that I felt at that time. That is until…Ukraine. Vladimir Putin does not appear to have the wherewithal of conscience as did say, Nikita Khrushchev who denounced Josef Stalin.  At some point Kennedy’s words of “the ashes in the mouth” resulting from a nuclear holocaust may have affected Khrushchev as he understood quite well. He was a rational human, and he understood the need to pragmatically balance his insecurity and fear.

I headed off to college while a US Navy recruitment officer knocked on my parent’s door wishing to talk to me about joining. We never connected. Instead, I studied, lived, worked, and traveled from Japan to Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Iran, Israel, through several European countries, and Central America among other places, from the late 60’s to the early 70’s and then in later years more traveling, working, and studying. Witnessing different cultures facing struggles and opportunities – much of humanity merely wants to live in harmony within surrounding peaceful and healthy environs. 

When you are attacked while in your own space, then fear, anger, dread, and other thoughts insinuate their spikes into your heart. Politics seems to be a form of madness to those that are merely existing or having the little they possess taken away from them. Their lives feel forever disrupted. Memories can be harsh and debilitating and foment until bursting in a staccato fashion like a Kalashnikov rifle. 

The United States is not innocent in its unwanted incursions in countries around the world, making the world safe for its financial investments. No country is completely innocent. Follow the money is a tired cliche but accurate.

People suffer when a leader’s insecurity and ego are in play, and they are not pragmatic. The desire to control others is strong. It’s dangerous when you haven’t learned or have the capacity to control yourself before you offer others an honest explanation of why you should be in control of their lives, property, and their possessions. A sense of being free is innate in most humans. Though in many places that freedom is an illusion. And within that context our technologies have elevated the lives of many but not all and those technologies have also served to alienate. Sadly, too many of those technologies are designed as weapons of death and destruction.

There is no such thing as a Strategic nuclear weapon or Strategic nuclear strike. Today that exists only on paper or digital programs. The human repercussions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not fully comprehended at the time. One super or hypersonic missile striking one target today will cause immeasurable downstream effects and uncontrollable blowback beyond the data accumulated by the latest software and high-tech war games. Why? People.  People are affected. People think and react differently. 

All minds have filters based on experience, emotions, prejudices, knowledge, reason, and genetics. Leaders can calculate but what is the ultimate cost to humanity? How will the individual react? How many prisons are enough? Competition appears to enhance bloodlust. Blood lust is one ingredient in the Apocalypse tinted mind that is like a global virus.

Will the Russian people overthrow their leadership and create the largest social democracy in the world? Intriguing thought, though reality suggests other scenarios.

The Estrangement as witnessed in Ukraine is one example of the Apocalypse gene at work. We hear it other places – voices in social media, pulpits of all religious faiths, boards of directors and trustees in academia, corporations, local government and among numberless politicians. 

The Apocalypse gene needs feeding whether from the constant rereading and deciphering of the Book of Revelations, Nostradamus, to science fiction films to video games ad infinitum. Violence, war, competition, and human misery and winning at the cost of others integrity and self-worth are essential to the orientation of this seemingly genetic heritage that spreads into unmanageable shapes.

And at the end our lives we may have fantasies about an afterlife. interestingly in the Gospel of Thomas in the Nag Hammadi Library a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth asks him about the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ response: It’s spread out before you.

Death separates the flesh from whatever energy may emerge from the body in the final moment of life. Does that energy a have memory, or is it the living human mind that creates the idea or thought…was Buddha correct in saying everything we know and perceive is from our mind? Whether we lived badly or not, is the author of Ecclesiastes, correct?

Among Paleolithic peoples there existed some experiential wisdom – do no harm to others or the earth upon which you live. 

My flesh is made up of stardust and will return to stardust. That self-knowledge carries with it a cosmic and terrestrial sense of being-ness. 

Zen Buddhism suggests I am of the universe and the universe is in me. With that self-disclosure my existential/spiritual acknowledgement has very limited brain space for the demeaning, manipulative, downward spiral created by the mind filled with Apocalyptic visions that deepens the estrangement of humanity.