This year, for the whole month of October, my topic is Apocalypse, Now. See below for some introductory remarks on the breadth of the topic.
Day 1: The Disappearing
Day 2: Hidden World of Shadow and Shade
Day 3: Buried Treasure
Day 4: The Reveal
Day 5: Low Tide
Day 6: We’re Doomed!
Day 7: White Women’s Tears
Day 8: In Plain View
Day 9: Grand Delusion
Day 10: Those With Eyes To See
Day 11: Uncovering Cover-ups (Crime Fiction)
Day 12: Uncovering the Past – The Orangeburg Massacre
Day 13: Snake Surprise!
Day 14: Contemplation
Day 15: Vision is Controlled Hallucination
Day 16: Throwing Leaves & Dirt
Day 17: Drowned Towns
Day 18: Unveiled Violence
As an introduction to the topic, I’d like to delve a bit into the etymology and definitions of apocalypse and some related English words.
When you hear the word apocalypse, what do you think of? Dystopia? Violence, pestilence, war, chaos? A comics supervillain? The final destruction of the world? The Book of Revelation from the Christian Bible? Doomsday? The zombie apocalypse?
The common sense of apocalypse in English these days seems to be “something cataclysmic.” Yet the word apocalypse — from Ancient Greek, ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω — originally didn’t carry that connotation; it meant an uncovering, a disclosure of knowledge, a revelation, insight, a vision, maybe a hallucination. We still use the word revelation in this sense, about something revealed, discovered, uncovered, literally “unveiled.” That’s really what apocalypse means, too, but apocalypse carries with it now some sense of danger; it suggests the potentially nightmarish consequences of revealing what’s been hidden, of the unravelling and even violence that can follow when the veil is lifted, a light is shone in shadows, eyes are opened.
I’ve been thinking about the words cover and uncover, too. The Online Etymological Dictionary discussion of the word cover begins like this:
“mid-12c., “protect or defend from harm,” from Old French covrir ‘to cover, protect, conceal, dissemble’ (12c., Modern French couvrir, from Late Latin coperire, from Latin cooperire ‘to cover over, overwhelm, bury.” … Sense of ‘to hide or screen’ is from c. 1300, that of ‘to put something over (something else)’ is from early 14c. Sense of ‘spread (something) over the entire extent of a surface’ is from late 14c.”
It’s interesting to me that “to cover” means to protect — by burying, hiding, screening, concealing. That is, in some sense concealment protects. It’s obvious that burying a seed in soil, for instance, protects it — indeed, provides it just the right environment — until it’s ready to grow. Less tangibly, we might think of repressed memories, buried to protect one’s psyche, personality, or soul from disintegration; if those memories are uncovered, what might the consequences be?
The word recover doesn’t seem to make sense, if it’s derived from re- (again) and cover- (conceal). Is recovery from an illness or addiction a process of reconcealing something? Not as we usually think of it; recovery in that sense means regaining something lost or taken away, and it seems to have been coined in about 1300 as Middle English recoveren, from Middle French recoverer, from Latin recuperāre to regain, recuperate, from the Latin re- ‘back’ + capere ‘take.’ But it’s suggestive to consider that perhaps something of what happens in recovery is re-protecting or re-defending oneself.
If you’re read this far, you can see that “apocalypse” is a very wide topic. Throughout October, I’ll be likely posting entries having to do with gardening and varied aspects of the natural world (soil, dirt, burying, shadows, underneath, covering and uncovering, etc), and also with Girardian ideas (titles of two of Rene Girard’s books, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World and Battling to the End, the latter concerning Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, may give you an idea of the direction he takes concerning apocalypse), psychology and sociology (Jungian psychology, how insight and revelation can damage as well as heal, what dreams and visions offer us), poetry (in which much is veiled, or said obliquely) and perhaps other literature, secrets and deceit, concealment strategies, operating undercover, more word study, history, culture, and whatever else occurs to me. Join me in exploring the apocalypse … culminating in Halloween!