When I lived in America, I was introduced to EDM, or electronic dance music.More specifically I was introduced to the music of the Californian dubsteb artist, Seven Lions. My entry into his music was “Days to Come”, which features the vocals of Tasmanian musician Fiora Cutler.I encourage you to watch the official music video before reading on. I can write about about the wonders of Seven Lions’ use of base, but my focus here is on Fiora’s words. For if you were familiar with scripture, you could be forgiven for seeing “Days to Come” as a postmodern work in eschatology. In this postmodern eschaton, the coming of the end of time bears a striking resemblance to the rolling up the scroll of history depicted in divine revelation. Indeed, the former should cause us to become aware of the eschatological threads woven into scripture and embedded into our sacramental practice.Ultimately, however, our growing awareness should lead us to realise the limits of the family resemblances. It should also make us realise the point at which the former breaks faith with latter, we arrive at two very different accounts of salvation at the end of time.
BEING TOWARDS ETERNITY
The title of the song itself is enough to evoke thoughts of the last things if one can recognise the scriptural allusion to the prophetic utterances of Isaiah. When making predictions of the Lord’s mountain becoming the highest of mountains, the prophet began with “in the latter days” (Is 2:2-4). Those words of the prophecy and the title of the song immediately draw our gaze from our toes up to the farthest horizons, beyond the immediate geographical space, beyond the present time, to the end of time. In listening to these words, and wrapped in the pulse of the base, I cannot help but feel the convergence of the themes of personhood, faith and time.As human persons, we are not static. To live and have our being, we move. As we move, we traverse through time. Our habitation on this earth and witnessing its wonders – like sunrises and walks along the beach at sunset – are our conscious passage through time. At every moment of our existence, a moment can either glide over our skin unnoticed or pierce deeply into our person. This conscious habitation of our time as persons is not a mere construct of the mind. It also comes from the fact that we exist as embodied persons.The French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier remarked in his Personalism that the mere fact of having a body pulls us out of ourselves, out of what he calls a “solitude of thinking that could only be thought about thought”. This pulling out of ourselves that comes with having a body does something further. Doing so, he suggests, thrusts us into history and thus into time. A body, he said:takes me constantly out of myself into the problems of the world and the struggles of mankind. By the solicitation of the senses it pushes me out into space, by growing old it acquaints me with duration, and by its death, it confronts me with eternityNote this subtlety in the underlined segment. If Mounier is right and if my body’s death confronts me with my eternity, then my body is not secular, and I mean this in two ways. First, my body confronts me with the question of not only my person or my passage through time. It confronts me with the coming of the end of all time. Moreover, it places me at a point beyond time. Second, because it puts me beyond time, it puts be in touch with transcendence, with the sublime, with that which is divine. My body confronts me with my faith.We see this convergence between time and faith in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Lumen Fidei. There, Francis mentions the cognitive aspect of faith when he spoke of it as a memoria futuri, a memory of the future. In faith, we remember, but as we do so we are not thrown back as much as thrust forward in hope.The corporeal aspect of faith is subtly highlighted when speaking of Abraham, our father in faith, whose faith is demonstrated by his journey in hope for a place where future generations shall live. The eye of faith sees, Francis says, only insofar as it journeys, in flesh, through time.
RUNNING TO THE END
It is these reflections that make the song resonate so much with me. From the get go, we are told to do more than merely stare at a distant future. The first time we hear Fiora’s voice, we hear what sounds like a command:We run, faces to the windThe song goes on a couple of lines down:fall, gently give inSwallow in the air and rain on skin The injunction to run sounds like the command Jesus gives to the crippled man at the pool of Siloam in the Gospel of John: Get up, roll up your mat, and walk! That poolside image is reinforced by the allusion to water in the later lines in the song, a point that we shall revisit later.Fiora’s commanding words are a culmination of the visual depiction in the video. In the beginning, before a word is uttered, we are greeted with a woman lying lifeless on the ground. A few seconds later, we see streams of black fluid flow from the ground. Given the black and white aesthetic, we can be forgiven for thinking that this fluid is the life blood of this woman. As the streams flow back into her, she draws her first breath, gets up, and walks alone in a barren wasteland. This is an inverse of Eden, Eve is the first person on earth. We the viewers see and realise that indeed, to exist is not good.Thus, as the first command in the lyrics indicate, in “Days to Come” Eve’s first task (and ours) is to run to the latter days. As we walk towards that horizon with her, Fiora tells us of the casting off of the burdens and angst that await us:hurts will come undoneall that will becomerise and fall behindweightless in rewindAgain, one with a passing familiarity with Scripture might notice the echo of the Book of Revelation (21:4) where, speaking from the latter days back into history, Christ says that God will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”.As the video progresses, our Eve walks on. As she does so, Fiora continues:I feel the shifting of you getting closerMy eyes wide open underneath the sunFollow the feeling, and patiently waitingI lose my feelings to oblivionEve’s passage through time is not simply linear. As she moves through history, she turns towards an undisclosed entity, feeling its presence. In the face of this presence, time and space shift, and not in the neat and unilinear manner that we expect from clock time, the ordered queue of one moment to another. A sign of this is her sudden arrival at a shore, the waves of the sea rising, falling, beckoning.
THE WATERS OF BEGINNING
We are in the days to come confronted with a baptismal image. The waters beckon Eve into the cosmic font of the sea, as a prelude to leaving the world behind with all its burdens that had become and will become. This postmodern baptismal image unearths a subtle transformation of time in our own baptism. For baptism represents the end of an old self, at the edge of the baptismal font we arrive at the end of an old time and are invited to step into a new age. This is because baptism incorporates us into the Body of Christ, and Christ is whom the Book of Revelation call the “bright morning star” (22:16), the first light of the day.Thus, we do not merely come out of the waters of baptism a new creation and then re-enter into the same clock time. In coming out of the waters, we enter a new Genesis.However, does “Days to Come” speak of a new beginning the same way the Christian tradition does? To get a clue to this, let us consider how the visuals subtly depicted the first beginning, the Eden in reverse. I suggested that to depict Eden completely in reverse would mean also to deny a basic ontological claim the bible makes about existence; that it is good. To be thrust into existence then, is to live what Martin Heidegger described as “being towards death”. To live is not to reflect on our world from a distance. It is to be thrust headlong into the world and to wrestle with the agony of existence. To live in this way is to constantly face that which ends our existence. These are the moments whereby we get the greatest clarity as to why we are in the world. In being constantly oriented towards death, we ironically raise the horizons of our moving in this world. We do not live simply from one moment and move onto another. In the Heideggerian world depicted by Seven Lions, we must obey Fiora’s call, and run to the end of all moments, the end of all existence. In the words of the music video, I am called to “lose my feelings to oblivion”.This gives a whole new meaning to the baptismal image depicted in the video, as Eve steps into the waters and plunges herself into the depths. In baptism, we not only prefigure the death of the old self, but also the rising up of the new creation in Christ. We find no such renewal in “Days to Come”. As the pulse speeds up in the music video, and Fiora repeats the verse of her patiently awaiting the Days to come, she repeats the culmination of this waiting: utter oblivion. The proof of this is Eve plunging herself deeper and deeper into the waters, with no indication that she will get out of it.
There is much to love in “Days to Come”, the rhythm, the wordsmanship and the cinematography. There is much to laud in the bravery of Seven Lions and Fiora to so skillfully enter into the fraught subject of the end of times, and there is much savour in the delicious parallels between the portrayals of the latter days of the biblical and the postmodern. Still, I cannot help but sense the despair of the postmodern’s spelling out of a single ending of time, when all shall be nothing. It is a despair that even the video itself cannot seem to abide by. This can be seen in the final few seconds of the video. As Eve looks as though she gets her wish to lose herself into her final negation, we are suddenly thrust back to the shore with Eve standing at the shoreline, no signs of her previous entry into the font of the sea. Whether this is a moment before her plunge or after remains unclear, but the unwillingness of the video to leave Eve in the depths hints that it is not willing to yield to its own narrative of latter-day abandonment to nothingness.I detect at the shore-shot and the strike of the final beat by Seven Lions, hints of a plea to not grant a finality to the end of days. I detect in this final scene a desire to encounter what is on the other side of death, rather than simply let annihilation have the last say. I detect the faintest glimmer of a hope to hear something, anything, to pierce through the silence and say to us as we stand at the cliff of existence:Behold, I am coming soon…I am the Alpha and the Omega…The beginning and the end… (Rev 22:12-13)