Roosters, Owls, and the Millennium

The logo of the CMS contains three basic elements.

The infinity sign was, in the period before the discovery of infinity, used to designate 1000 (partly because it looks like a rounded M for mille. As a result, it stands for both the magical fascination that the number 1000 exercises on our historical and eschatological imaginations with its promises of a radically altered existence of boundless joy and mutual delight, and for the shift from religious to scientific symbols that marks the secular phase of modernity in which we currently find ourselves (ca. 1500-?).

The rooster represents the apocalyptic believer, the one who, thrilled at the prospect, heralds a new day by crowing at the dawn, stirring the barnyard to wake, piercing the still air with his penetrating cries, joining in with other roosters. Even those who would resist, who are annoyed, find it difficult to ignore this chorus of crowing.

The owl represents that anti-apocalyptic believer, the one who prefers the caution and quiet of the familiar, who argues no, the night is still young and long hours separate us from the dawn, who warn that the foxes are out, the master still asleep, and only disaster can come from rousing the barnyard to untimely activity.

In times of waxing apocalyptic expectation, the roosters dominate discourse; but their dominance is as brief as it is powerful. With the (inevitable) passing of the apocalyptic moment, the roosters must either change their tune (redate, expunge the apocalytpic element) or cede the floor to the owls who, retrospectively, prove correct. Owls dominate the documents, the post-apocalyptic retrospective narratives, our perceptions of the past. But, as we are learning every day: you can't have one without the other.

For further discussion on these issues, see my article "On Owls, Roosters and Apocalyptic Time," and for evidence of the long-term punctuated dialogue between the two approaches to the coming eschaton, see the analysis of chronological shifts in the first millennium of Christian history.

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