"The desert grows," writes Nietzsche in the Prologue to Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
The desert Nietzsche is talking about is not the Sahara, the Gobi, the Mojave, the Kalahari, or the Sonoran. Nor is it all of them combined, with all the lesser deserts around the globe added in.
The desert that Nietzsche says continues to grow is that of what he identifies as nihilism. In turn, he defines nihilism as "the devaluation of all values." At the end of his Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche's characterizes nihilism as a product of the will to sheer destructiveness itself. "One would rather will the not," he writes, "than not will."
Since Nietzsche, the nihilistic desert has not just grown. It has gone global.
A desert is a wasteland, a barren land that sustains no life. Seeds of life that fall on desert soil soon die, succumbing to the bareness. The desert barrenness makes barren all it touches, or that touches it. Such wastelands can sustain no life. Only more death can grow in such dead soil.
It does. Death spreads everywhere. It reigns over the entire desert of the globe today. The desert of death sends its roots down deeper and deeper, spreading them wider and wider, deadening in turn everything that it touches.
Precisely when the hydrogen bombs are not exploded, with the Atomic Age an uncanny change draws over the world.
The devastation that holds sway everywhere today hides itself behind the twin masks of global prosperity and consumer variety.
If we were to look for a fitting image of today's already global but still spreading desert of death, we would not find it in the mushroom clouds above nuclear explosions such as those that rose over Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the United States bombed them to bring about VJ-Day. Nor would we find it in pictures of the devastation after such nuclear "accidents" as happened at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukishima.
We would instead find a fitting image of today's ever growing desert in such images as the icons for Microsoft or Apple, Google or Facebook, Walmart or Amazon.
Or we could find it in such images as the one below.
The end of the world comes neither with a bang nor with a whimper (with apologies to T. S. Eliot). It has already come.
It came amid all the glitz and glitter of the modernization that has now brought us the global consumer marketplace.
The end-time already came long ago, and has now become end-less. The endlessness of it is without any limiting horizon: It just goes on, and on, and on, like the series of whole integers, to which one can always add yet another "one."
Death reigns. Its body is everywhere.
"Who," we might well pray with the Apostle Paul in Christian scripture, "will deliver us from this body of death?"
In searching for an answer to that question, we must also heed another voice from Christian scriptures, a voice that warns us to beware of false prophets. Such prophets, the voice at issue says, may come in sheep's clothing, but beneath that clothing they remain ravening wolves.
They may also come clothed in the suits of self-styled "Evangelists," but the news they bear is anything but good, as the name they have given themselves proclaims it to be. To end this post with the same voice with which I began it, they are in truth, as Nietzsche said, not ev-angelists, from Greek eu-, meaning "good" (or "well," as in the name Eugene, "well-born"), plus angelos, literally "messenger, envoy, one who announces". They are instead, said Nietzsche, dys-angelists, "bearers or announcers of bad news.
At least that is who they reveal themselves to be, despite themselves, to those who have been given ears truly tuned to hear, and the eyes truly adjusted to see. It is only they who have been given such ears and such eyes who are the true prophets.
Only they can lead us in deserting death's desert.