The end of the world as we know it
So that’s that. Time to pack on up and get on out of this universe.
Today’s date — December 21, 2012 — has long been the source of much consternation for conspiracy theorists of all manners, driving scientists, writers and artists of all types to support or disprove the armageddon it supposedly brings in its celestial importance. For some, unique planetary alignment, interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar, and random support found in both the works of Nostradamus and the Torah all suggest that a great shift is about to occur — on this, the day to end all days.
Well, as you may have guessed, I prefer to get my deep philosophical understanding of worldwide collapse and rebirth from comic books.
As I described previously, The Invisibles stands as one of Grant Morrison’s most compelling and complex bodies of work, not the least for its tightly woven vision of the countdown to the end of the world. For much of its narrative, the eponymous heroes of the series work against their opposite number, the Outer Church, to free humanity from the shackles of fear and loathing. In the end, however, we come to discover the battle was not nearly as black and white as it seemed. Ultimately, both sides of the embattled coin were working toward the same goal: the end of consciousness and identity as we know it on December 22, 2012. This is the morning after our last great night out on the town, except that instead of a cosmic hangover, we get to experience nirvana or heaven or, as Morrison describes it, the Supercontext.
One of Morrison’s most important theories about the nature of the universe, the Supercontext is the world as it was always meant to be — a four dimensional state of complete unity between creation and its inhabitants. Individualism is both eliminated and multiplied, as we are simultaneously all connected through time and genetics back to the first protozoan lifeform, a single organism with infinite aspects, faces and branches through which any identity we desire can be expressed. Want to be a rock god? A killer revolutionary? A public school teacher? In the Supercontext, it’s all there for the taking. And when you’re bored with one identity, one can just shed his or her fiction suit and put on another.
Our world, as we experience it today (but no longer tomorrow!), is the result of the crossing between creator and creation — the download of a higher dimensional being into our flimsy three through the rift in reality caused by the release of the first atom bomb. Like an obscene liquid pouring into a container not fit to hold its contents, this magic mirror refracts back a broken universe of conflict and overlap between good and evil, health and disease — invisibility and desolation. Our world, in this moment, retroactively became the very struggle The Invisibles purports to describe, but the mistake we all make is believing it is a battle between ideology and not, simply, a labored movement back toward our true point of origin. We are living in reverse with time speeding up every second (can’t you feel it?), moving closer and closer to our own birth back into the Supercontext. And tomorrow, if all goes to plan, is when the cord will finally be cut.
The obvious comparisons to the act of creation, particularly that of a comic book, are of course no accident. Morrison depicts a world where characters can step outside of panels, move between moments — folding time as if it were simply paper to be manipulated, drawn upon, and then erased and redrawn. Words are weapons for both sides of the war between the Invisibles and their mirrored foes, and like Oppenheimer’s grand pronouncement, they have a way of becoming real the moment they are uttered. As the series reaches its glorious conclusion, some 60 issues and 3 volumes later, the final confrontation between the two opposing forces comes down not to violence, but to language itself. Dosed with an upgraded version of a drug once given to King Mob during a near death-inducing interrogation by the Outer Church, the King Archon experiences the mad effects of Key 64 — the psychedelic literalization of the printed word. POP goes the symbol of all that is oppressive in our universe, a new era ushered in through words and emotion rather than violence and physicality. Because of this shift, and as if to signal we’re ready for the next step in our evolution, BARBELiTH — placenta to the Supercontext — finally bursts to signal our readiness for rebirth.
The mysterious giant red satellite hovering just beyond the dark side of the moon, BARBELiTH is frequent meme throughout the run of the series, appearing first as graffiti on the wall during a psychotropic Invisible initiation ritual. At once placenta, a model of the true nature of the holographic universe (in that all sides are indeed the same), and a great cosmic stoplight, BARBELiTH is that which nurtures humanity in its dreams, appearing most frequently following a severely traumatic experience. Alien abduction, shamanic activity, and near death experience are all different interpretations of our brush with the oncoming Supercontext, and Morrison’s great red dot — this period on the end of the universe we know — is there to prepare us most fully. In fact, it is only the moment when man reaches out to touch BARBELiTH, moves beyond its normal conception of space by sending a N.A.S.A. contingent to greet it, that the world experiences its second gushing rift in reality. This time, however, the break is motivated by love, not war. And thus it seems we are prepared for the apocalypse after all.
Would that I believed our world had reached this place on Morrison’s timetable, but with mere hours left to go before sunrise on December 22, I fear we’ve not quite made it yet. Humanity, as we’ve seen over the course of the last week, month, year, and decade, is definitely changing, and I believe (I truly do) evolving for the better. But just not fast enough.
The Invisibles has meant many things to me over the years, and it’s one of those rare pieces of literature that shift ever so slightly with every reading, moving us and it toward greater understanding with every page turn. It demands to be revisited, quite literally, asking that we rinse and repeat until we get it right. And we haven’t gotten it right yet. We’re still serving out our time in a hologram of selfishness and pain, constrained by three dimensions and only pretending to understand what lies beyond. It’s time for us to start rewriting our story, to stop letting the illusion of contradictory forces distract us from our greater purpose. We need to embrace our place as part of grand unified theory — not of physics but of psyche. It’s time to relinquish an either/or mentality and embrace a universe turned inside-out — to identify with unity over ego and grow into something better, that which we were always meant to be.
So, are you ready for what comes next? Because wouldn’t you rather our world end not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a cheer?
Matt Santori-Griffith owns one business suit, three pairs of shoes, and over 15,000 comic books. He is an art director for several non-profit organizations, senior editor for Comicosity.com, and still manages to find the time on dark nights and weekends to fight the good fight on Twitter.com in the guise of @FotoCub. He has not yet saved the world, but isn’t giving up quite yet.