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A Pocket Guide To The Apocalypse
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Two Sundays ago I swung into Waitrose (my nearest supermarket, I hasten to add, rather than the one that reflects my socio-economic bracket) to pick up a bottle of wine, and discovered that all the discounted ones had been reduced to a striking £6.66. Whose idea was that? I mused, grabbing a red Riojoa that proved damn decent. Then, this last Sunday, I swung into my nearest corner shop for some weekend sundries (newspaper, croissants, painkillers), and found the exact same numbers staring back at me on the till.

"Six six six," I declared to the Indian shopkeeper, pointing at the digital display.

"Yes," laughed the man gently, "it must be very lucky number."

"How's that?"

"Everyone seem to be getting it at the moment."

"Happy days!"

London, at the moment, really is strange, not least because, on the side of every single bus, in the bottom left hand corner of every advert, and peppered the length of the tube like a satanic tag, is the legend ZION. Wondering what exactly I'm going on about? Why, the ZION Olympics, of course. Oh, right, I may have read the official logo incorrectly - what it actually says is 2012. Considering all the apocalyptic expectations in the collective unconscious regarding that particular year, this is arguably little better, though it is interesting, to a crank like me, that the designer of the logo seems to have selected shapes that approximate letters as much as numbers, right down to providing a dot for the 'i' in the middle of the geometric mêlée, so that every time I see the logo - which I do perhaps two dozen times a day - I can't help but imbibe the doubly apocalyptic message of ZION and 2012, as I suppose everyone else is, consciously or otherwise.

The majority of my fellow citizens fall into the latter category, which makes the whole thing even weirder for me. My wife and I, in fact, argued about it for months, the regular dispute going something like this:

"It says Zion."

"What are you talking about?"

"Look, in the top left there, that's a 'z', then beneath it, there's the 'i', then in the top right - the Olympic rings doing their bit - that's an 'o', and beneath that is an 'n'. Zion."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You're blind."

"You're insane."

She could be right - at the very least I am sane enough to take this possibility seriously. I figured that her inability to see the word I saw had a lot to do with the different contexts our realities were embedded within. What, I wondered, was mine? How would it look when it flowed out off the top of my head, onto a page, in a single sitting, without consulting anything as I went? The outcome of this experiment follows, and I have named it The Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse… (I should reiterate that, while I'm confident the following information will give a roughly accurate portrait of our apocalyptic predicament, my refusal to rely on anything other than my mental notes from a decade's paranoid browsing means many of the details could well require amending.)

The Jews, see, used to have this nice big temple in Jerusalem - on the Temple Mount - where they would traditionally perform their sacrifices, thereby purging the nation of Israel of its sins. Christ - who of course claimed to be the all-time sacrifice for all humanity - apparently prophesised that following his death this temple would be reduced to rubble, which it then was, the Romans punishing their rebellious colony by sacking Jerusalem, tearing the temple apart, and sending into exile all the Israelis they didn't butcher, thereby instigating the famous and significant Jewish Diaspora, which of course was finally brought to end with the foundation of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust.

In the interim, however, Mohammed had (excuse the pun) rocked up and rather thoughtlessly decided to choose the Temple Mount as the spot from which to ascend to Heaven, which led to the erection of the Dome of the Rock mosque, the second most sacred spot in Islam (I think). Now I'm doing my best to concoct an apposite simile for just how irritating this must have been for those exiled Jews not entirely distracted by the constant threat of a pogrom to notice that someone else had bagsied the only spot in the world they were allowed to build their sacrificial temple on... It would be like… someone taking the only spot in an entire empty car park that your car happened to fit in. And not only that, but the person who took it happened to be your sworn enemy (at times, I believe, the Quran is a touch bellicose towards the Jews), and their car a tiny one that could have fit anywhere else - the Dome on the Rock is a compact little number that bestrides the Temple Mount like a mouse on a surfboard.

All of which is peculiar enough without the fact that Christian Biblical prophecy (a mixture of Revelations and a smattering of, I think, Daniel and Isaiah) directly posits that the instigation of the end of the world will be motioned and provoked by the re-building of Solomon's Temple, the chief foreman of this controversial development being none other than the Antichrist, who will utilise the site to launch his global satanic religion. (Which to the Christian is obviously just swell, prompting as it would the long awaited arrival of Jesus II and all that.)

Were it not for the Dome of the Rock, I imagine that the attitude of most non-Christians, non-Jews and atheists regarding the rebuilding of the Temple would be: go for your life. As it is, however, people are understandably keen that the fundamentalist elements in both faiths are not allowed to trigger World War Three for whatever reason, let alone an itching to provoke a messiah. But this is where (to borrow a phrase of Will Self's) people like me pause in 'superstitious awe', stunned by the fact that history, with a World War here and a Balfour agreement there - not to mention innumerable nudges courtesy of everything from the American Revolution to the Arab-Israeli Wars - has led humanity to the point where, as prophesised, the mere building of a temple would constitute an eschatological event in a very real way.

What, we wonder, shaking our skulls in outright admiration, were the chances of that…

But there is much more to this predicament than the convenient alliance between Jews and Christians (surely the least sincere love-in since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). Peel away the exoteric history of the Temple Mount and you will discover an esoteric one that writhes with mystery and menace. In short, it is not only the Abrahamic religions that cherish designs on the Temple Mount - but the pagans, too, under whatever guise you prefer to identify them (the Masons, the Illuminati, even - according to some - the Vatican) anticipate the restitution of the temple from which Solomon was said to have once wielded unparalleled influence over the spirit worlds.

Needless to say, not just anyone is going to be able to wield this nifty bit of metaphysical technology, and the secret societies (which a curious amalgam of evidence has led millions to think of as the hidden hand that steers history - and therefore behind all those seemingly random wars and revolutions that inexorably led humankind to this Mexican standoff on the Temple Mount) can be added to the list of those awaiting and anticipating a Significant Individual. Of course the messiah-figure anticipated by the secret societies - a sort of spiritualist super-magician with an unprecedented flair for sacred geometry - would also happen to be an uncannily suitable candidate for the Christian concept of an Antichrist…

So what are the chances? I've no idea. But they have to be slim. How irrational was I really, I asked myself, to fear these Olympics? The day after rattling out this Pocket Guide, the wife and I were sat outside a café in King's Cross with a friend when a bus pulled up with an Olympics logo on the side. It was stuck in traffic, and word/year positioned right in front of us.

"You know he thinks it says ZION?" scoffs the wife, drawing my friend's attention to it.

"How'd you do that?"

"Well," I explained, "that 2 on the left is a 'z', the 1 below it is an 'i'…"

"What are you talking about," interrupted the wife, squinting at the poster with renewed attention, "what 2, what 1?"

She hadn't, it transpired, even figured out that the logo was (exoterically, so to speak) 'meant' to spell 2012… Clearly the challenge of subliminally blending 2012 with ZION had resulted in a logo that was, to many eyes, doubly inscrutable, just a handful of weird-ass, worthless shapes… Feeling rather vindicated, I volunteered to pay for our coffees.

You'll never guess what they came to…

thomas McGrath  , trembling!  , olympics  ,
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