Yup, I wrote an honest-to-God book, on a somewhat (ahem) esoteric topic that has fascinated me for about two decades now: The Book of Revelation, last book of the Christian New Testament, fount of cultural imagery, and really scary apocalypse apparently promising a Judgment Day upon which most of us will be found wanting and thrown into the pit.
You can access it above, via the link.
Why write such a thing? Because I don’t think Revelation is anything close to what it purports to be – I don’t think it’s about Christianity at all, really, under the skin – and I think that its true message is one of rather shattering importance to our view of history, and maybe our fate as a civilization. Lest this makes me sound like I’m fit for the nut-hatch, rest assured, I don’t think anything supernatural, paranormal, or divinely inspired is at play here.
As a teaser, here’s the preface: if you’re intrigued, have a read of the whole book, but please respect that it’s my work, and refrain from using any of my ideas without attribution. I’m not surrendering copyright.
It’s titled An Eagle in Mid-Heaven. Here’s the opening:
Prelude – The Hoover Dam
In 1935, a Norwegian-born, naturalized American sculptor named Oskar J.W. Hansen faced an interesting challenge. He’d been commissioned to design the spectacular statuary and artwork that now decorates the Hoover Dam, the Boulder Dam back then, and he wanted it to be more than just decorative. He wanted to leave a message, one that could be understood into the indefinite future.
The massive dam, it was known, would stand for a very long time. Properly maintained, it was theoretically possible it would last pretty much forever, and who knew, it might still be standing there, twice as ancient in its time as the Great Pyramids are to us, still being tended by people with whom we might have very little in common. Even untended, so long as the Colorado doesn’t start sloshing over the top and eroding it away, it might still be standing in 5,000 years, to be discovered sitting there, stopping up a canyon in a barren desert, by a possibly nonplussed team of future archaeologists. A lot can change in a few thousand years. A lot can get lost. The long-distant admirers of the mysterious dam likely wouldn’t share our language, our calendar, or our history, and they might not even know, any more, what civilization could have built it. Its architects might be the stuff of legend, dimly remembered, or utterly lost to history. Surely one of the first things they’d want to know, when stumbling over this monument of a lost civilization, would be how long it had been there.
Hansen wanted to embed something in the dam that would allow them, whoever and whenever they were, to calculate exactly when the structure was completed. It would do no good to leave a plaque that stated “Erected by the United States of America, and dedicated September 30, 1935” – that wouldn’t mean a whole hell of a lot to anyone, any more than Egyptian hieroglyphs did to us before we found the Rosetta Stone. Even if they could translate it, and make sense of our numbers, what the heck is a “September”? What was “1935”? One thousand, nine hundred and thirty-five years, one supposes, but years since – what?
So how do you talk to people of the distant future about time, as measured by their reckoning and methods, not yours? How do you make it possible to fix our date of September 30, 1935 on their calendar, whatever it is? You’d need to reference some sort of universal, perpetual clock, one shared by, and accessible to, everyone throughout all of history.
Yes, and incredibly there is such a clock. Its gears turn in the sky over our heads, owing to a wobble in our planet’s rotational axis that gives rise to an observable phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. We don’t perceive it in everyday casual star-gazing, but slowly over time – agonizingly slowly – this wobble causes the relative positions of the stars to change, as viewed at any given time, from any given point on the Earth’s surface. When you stare up at the sky from your back yard next year, the stars won’t quite inhabit the same spots where they seemed fixed on the same date a year earlier. This won’t be readily apparent, because the changes are so small and gradual – it takes about 72 years for precession to shift the astral positions as much as one degree – but it happens, and any civilization with a reasonable understanding of astronomy will know it, and know how long it takes. The astronomers of Western civilization have known it since the second century B.C.E., when a scholar in Rhodes named Hipparchus first worked it out.
Hansen knew it, too. If you ever visit the Hoover Dam, you’ll see the monument he erected in the dam’s dedication plaza, and at the base of that monument, embedded in the terrazzo floor, is a star map that depicts the sky as it appeared overhead at the moment of President Roosevelt’s dedication of the dam.
Thousands of years from now, all any curious person needs is a little astronomical know-how, and the ability to look up, look down, and do the math.