They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.
And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.
There are a lot of ways the world can end.
Robert Hass–a poet I love so much that I once fell in love with someone largely because they studied with him in college–once wrote:
all the new thinking is about loss
in this way, it resembles all the old thinking
I lost my father 8 months ago, almost to the day.
Decades ago I lost my mother–and by extension, my younger sister, who was my mother’s favorite–to mental illness, and to this date I have yet to marry or have a family of my own. So in the years between my childhood and today my father had slowly become my whole universe: the man who taught me to walk, to drive a car, change a set of guitar strings, who showed me how to value myself enough to walk away from heartbreak; who resolutely held me up when I thought the misogyny I encountered in music school and in my early days as a career guitarist was going to break me; who brought me back into the arms of Christ when I was ready; who became first my mentor and then–at long last–came to regard me as a trusted and capable peer.
There are a lot of ways the world can end.
My world ended on October 1, 2016. There was no reason for his passing. I had spoken to him earlier that day and he was happy, healthy, fine. Looking forward to a gig that weekend. Had a busy day, had to get off the phone, he would talk to me early next week if not before. The next time his face popped up on my caller ID, there was a police officer on the other end, asking if I knew some guy named Steve. He had gone to bed that night, and that was that. He never made the gig.
There are a lot of ways the world can end.
I buried my father and packed up his guitars and drove them back to Brooklyn, and when I got there I returned to an old job as a DJ, to defray the cost of his funeral (my father was rich in many things but money was not one of them). This is how I found myself face-to-face with a man nearly 15 years my junior, who was out of his head on god knows what, who had decided for some reason that I belonged to him. This was the weekend before the election, and at the time it seemed there was an end in sight. But by the end of the evening, our current president’s name had been invoked, my hand had been smashed in a doorway about a dozen times, and–to make a long story short–the following Tuesday I cast my vote in a neck brace, drove myself home from the polls somehow, and went to bed for what turned out to be quite some time.
When my father died all the strength left my body, and after I was attacked I discovered I didn’t have any resources left over for myself. The road to recovery was–and still is–longer and harder than I expected. I started spending more time at home and I’ll be damned if I didn’t discover that my man (of Robert Hass fame) had been keeping a second girlfriend in another state. So the world had already ended, and then it turned out it ended two more times before all was said and done, and then we all lived through the election together and the world as we know it really DID end. We live in a new world now. The reality is, we have probably been living in this new world for quite some time. If all the old thinking was about loss, this new thinking is about losing harder, faster, and with less grace.
I wrote at the outset of this project about the idea of circles, and about the keeping of lists. That the literal experience of something happening in the world around us is often mirrored by the struggles we have within. So, what happens, when the world ends and you are somehow still just…here? There was a moment, having lost so many things both personally and on a global level, where I certainly prayed for the easefulness of death. The old thinking is gone. But the new thinking is maybe just the old thinking all over again, only accelerated to a breakneck pace.
In a lot of ways, I think those of us who are perplexed by the current state of affairs in this country and in the world at large seem to be struggling with this one a bit. Are we being challenged, or destroyed? Are we truly concerned for others, or only for the others that most resemble us? Are we growing as a society, or are we suffocating our civilization because we have already grown too much?
When I think about the two pillars God appointed to bear witness to the end of the world, I marvel at how incredibly tired they must have been. I wonder if they asked their Father, at some point, if somebody else might be better suited to bear their load. So I wrote this for my father mostly, but also for the olive trees, the glowing lanterns I have always imagined as being daughters of the Lord. For who else but two women could be strong yet supple enough to bear full witness to the final days of life on earth?
Composed, Written, and Performed by Lily Maase. 2017
Read: Release Me
The message that I take from this is twofold: that God never gives us more than we can handle, and that neither witness was asked to bear this weight fully on their own. It’s taken the better part of a year to begin to get my fighting spirit back, and in another year or so I’ll hopefully have my strength. I am a new person now. In truth I liked the old person quite a bit, so I’m still not sure how I feel about all this. It is hard, sometimes, to be tough enough to navigate this new terrain.
There are a lot of ways the world can end. But where one thing ends, another begins, whether we want it to or not. This is why we have faith.
Read Lily’s first post to follow the development of her 2017 Artist in Residence project.
Read Lily’s artist bio here.
These materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Tagged with: apocalypse • artist in residence • composition • demo • Isaiah • Isaiah 8 • Isaiah 8:11 • lily maase • Music • Proverbs • Proverbs 4 • Proverbs 4:23 • release me • Revelation • Revelation 11 • Revelation 11:3-7 • Revelation 9 • Revelation 9:10-20 • song cycle