As the end of the year approaches, more and more people speak of the end of the world, but not of the beginning. Where is the hope? How can we create a vision for the rest of our lives?
For a while, the entire world was preoccupied with the question of whether the world would end this year. Children and adults alike engaged in interpretations of the Mayan prophecy. All predictions about the world ending were proved wrong, so this is the best time to mention that hope is not lost. It will be 2013 soon, and our wonderful planet continues to spin.
A century ago, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, hope flooded the world, due to many scientific discoveries. People believed that we would create a new and spectacular planet. Books were written predicting science’s ability to end the stasis and stagnation in place since the Middle Ages. Writer Jules Verne, through his science fiction novels, tried to imagine how science could feed the masses and alleviate their distress. Walt Whitman, one of the great American poets of the 19th century, who practically invented modern free verse poetry, viewed the new era as a harbinger of democracy and human freedom. Art reached new heights of creativity, from Italian cubist futurism to surrealism. Everyone discussed mankind’s great promise. Our imaginations went wild and tried to conceive of a new society of mass transport, industry and big cities.
Two world wars reduced that hope. It was let down from the flagpole and later forgotten. As the 21st century was born, we were not envisioning a renewed spirit. On the contrary, the world was buried in visions of its end and fears of mass suicide. Anxiety took hold of our children’s faces.
In our era, what connects the world’s population is the Internet. New technologies continuously appear, becoming more advanced every day. We have the ability to transfer data from one end of the world to another. Powerful connections and the ability to share through social networks have become central to our lives. The universal vision has become practical, but it has not yet been realized as we form an image of the future.
Lack of imagination is one of the reasons for end-of-the-world prophecies. Our imagination is both flawed and limited. It is so difficult for us to imagine a future. How do we create a new fantasy? What are the components necessary for a daring, progressive, forward thinking and avant-garde ideal for us to hold on to into the future? For any person who envisions possibilities for the brain, mind and human consciousness, these are pertinent questions.
One appropriate solution would be to create a broader horizon for our imaginations so we can construct a suitable vision. We need to have something to look forward to in the future, an anchor of sorts. This vision must contain all of our needs and desires in times as crazy as these. If humanity could agree on a vision, perhaps our children wouldn’t be busy learning dubious interpretations of history written long ago. A true vision would help us see the future more clearly.
This new imagination could be the beginning of a world with prophecies about the future, instead of the end of the world. But where are these prophets and prophetesses? And why don’t they occupy a more central place in our lives? Why don’t they have a loud shofar with which to sound their prayers for the future? Why is the new prophecy in the second decade of this millennium unable to excite the masses?
Ballad of the Middle of the Twenty First Century
(with thanks to Serge Gainsbourg and Danny Blair Shwed Jones Grossman for the inspiration)
I peek at her white body and at that other one standing beside her,
her body shrivels from him, and her spirit sings a gentle song versed by her fancy.
So, the Botticelli painting stands in my bathroom
the orange with the black stains of mold.
Her colors don’t fade,
the light shatters on her body,
only her clothes shrivel
and get wet on the old floor tiles.
I look at her and him from afar
like a grownup peeking into his childhood,
and my mind captures photos with a rare camera
that you can’t buy
despite all the advanced technology of the age.
The bathroom colors the painting
with wet orange, and that other one cowers from the holy
water, under the mold.
On the walls little angels and fairies,
dance around her only.
After washing her hair,
she’s busy drying
while that other one
chews the fat
with her shadow.
The smell of her hair knocks me down from the peeking stance,
that other comes right over to see where the racket came from
and then right in front of my eyes, from my hiding place,
his goat’s feet come into view with the terrible smell.
The movements of her towel are so gentle,
that the bathtub itself wants to get up and make love to her
without penetration, just a sequence of touch after touch
stringing together a pleasantperverse feeling.
I look at her white body and at that other one standing next to her
I get hard from her and from him.
And this is the angel of death
that is competing with me for her love
and I have no way to beat him
but to die at her feet
for her to come to me
and my arms to be weaved into hers.
This poem was published first on Scar Minimizer (Tel-Aviv: Gwanim Publishers, 2001) and then on “Märchenland: Die beteiligten Autoren setzten sich mit den Märchen der Gebrüder Grimm auseinander, brachten ihre prosaische Form auf eine lyrische Ebene und begaben sich in die mitunter ambivalenten Bereiche des kulturellen Gedächtnisses in Deutschland und Israel.”