I’ve had a feeling for most of 2019 that something ominous was about to happen. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I knew it wasn’t going to be nice. In fact, I’m still not sure and the year is nearly over, but the feeling remains. It’s like being slightly off balance, which I’ve been accused of before, but that’s another story.
To begin with, the year itself is a problem: 2019. It’s an odd number that looks even odder and ends with nine. It contains zero, one, and nine but begins with two, which is an even number. That’s just wrong. Also, you can never see nine without thinking of ten. Why? Because nine is incomplete. It exists between the octave of eight and the end of the base-10 system. It is a liminal number at best.
If, in defense of nine, you counter with baseball teams, the Enneagram, Masonic rituals, the Trinity, or the Forty-Niners, I only ask that you suspend judgment and let me argue my case. What case is that?
Advent. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting. It is filled with expectancy and preparation. However, unlike my expectation of doom, in Advent you get the opposite. We await the salvation of the world, God crossing the bitter darkness of the void to settle intimately in our lives, as insignificant, meaningless, or hopeless as we may think they are. Or have been told they are.
It’s not as if we don’t need salvation. Think of the war in Syria, the destruction of Chile, the schism that may take place within the Church between modernists and traditionalists, both of whom align with corresponding political movements, Left and Right. Things are in chaos. The world needs a savior. I’m just not convinced the worst is over.
People talk about uncertainty all the time. It started with the 2016 election and has only gotten worse. The media and corporate giants manipulate the public until uncertainty turns into unrest, eventually boiling over into riots as in Santiago, Valparaiso, and other cities throughout Chile, where the destruction has reached the level of civil war. We may be witnessing the beginning of another totalitarian state there.
When people resist manipulation, as in Hong Kong, the results can be inspiring. Yet, even as students there fight for freedom, old guard leaders like Angela Merkel threaten action against what they call “extreme speech.” This amounts to suppressing anything they’re not comfortable with, comfort assuming pride of place among modern, Orwellian virtues. Of course, they disguise this as concern for human dignity, but it is anything but dignified to outlaw certain speech because some people might be offended. After all, is not the distinguishing characteristic of human beings logos?
This is not to say that animals do not communicate or even have language, but logos is different. It represents order, discipline, and a spark of warmth in the void. It is the quintessential human drive to organize the chaos around us, affecting everything from food production to art. Fences and frames serve a purpose. Advent delivers logos, bringing a message of hope and creativity against the nihilism of modern society, which grows more infectious every day. It is truly “glad tidings.”
This is also not to say that the world will end by New Year’s Day or even that the stock market will experience a “correction.” In fact, everything indicates the opposite. Still, I’ve lived in apartments long enough to know what to expect when the guy upstairs takes off one shoe and lets it drop to the floor with a thud. There’s nothing to do but stop and wait for the other shoe to drop.
What does this mean for 2020 and the feeling I’ve had all along about something ominous about to happen? I’m not sure, but you can take solace knowing that I am neither clairvoyant nor psychic. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Nine image by Vladimir Malyutin on Unsplash. Manger by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash. Shoe by Erik Mclean on Unsplash. Also, see Jen Carlsen, “Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop Was Born in NYC,” in The Gothamist. Music by Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack on Daphne Records.