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Apocalypse When?

May 22, 2011

Billboard for May 21 Judgement DayWell, the world didn’t end yesterday. There was no ‘Rapture’ (in case you missed this bit of non-news, radio evangelist Harold Camping had predicted that millions of Jesus Christ’s followers would be taken up to heaven yesterday [May 21, 2011], and that those left behind would face months of pain and suffering as the world came to an end; Mr. Camping apparently made the same prediction back in 1994 – oops!)  In any case, I’m glad it didn’t happen because that would have meant my husband had wasted his day washing and waxing my car (a task he actually ENJOYS), and that I shouldn’t have bothered shovelling dirt, sowing seeds, and raking the yard (for which my muscles are screaming today, thank-you-very-much!) 

Of course, Mr. Camping isn’t the first person to predict the end of the world (which, by the way, WILL happen at some point in the [hopefully very] distant future – although I’m sure we won’t know exactly when!)

Fire and BrimstoneThere have been predictions of biblical apocalypses:  the Roman theologian Sextus Julius Africanus said it would happen in 500 A.D.; Thiota of Mainz and then the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III rounded it out to 1,000 A.D.; William Miller claimed it would take place in 1968;  Hal Lindsay, who wrote a book called ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’, put it in 1998 (or 2007); and Edgar Whisenant predicted a great ‘Rapture’ (similiar to Camping’s) would occur between September 11 and 13, 1988 (Whisenant also changed the date each time things didn’t quite work out – from 1988 to 1989, to 1990, to 1993).

After The ApocalypseAnd it’s not just the religious zealots who have predicted the end of all we know.  Scientific theorists have also gotten in on the act: Albert Porta, a meteorologist at the University of Michigan, predicted a giant sun spot would wipe out life on the planet in 1919; Henry Adams created a complicated model of human civilization and the dissipation of energy that showed we’d all be done for in 1921; John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann wrote ‘The Jupiter Effect’ to explain how the alignment of seven planets in the solar system would cause massive problems that would kill us all on March 10, 1982; and of course there were the myriad forecasters who were sure the world wouldn’t survive the ‘Y2K’ bug’ that was supposed to render every computer on earth useless on January 1, 2000.

Alien InvasionWhat’s great about all the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenarios is that they provide a perfect platform for big budget Hollywood movies (particularly for directors like Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay who love blowing things up).  We’ve had blockbusters (and some duds) about almost every type of global disaster imaginable:  asteroids and comets colliding with the Earth (Armageddon and Deep Impact); alien invasions (Independence Day, War of the Worlds);  the rotational slowdown of the Earth’s core (The Core); climate change (The Day After Tomorrow, Waterworld); illness and disease (12 Monkeys, The Andromeda Strain);  solar flares causing worldwide climactic disaster (2012); technological supremacy (the Terminator franchise, I Robot); and my favourite – human overpopulation and pollution (Wall-E).  (And I can’t even begin to list the end-of-the-world-through-war movies that have been produced!)



No mention of the end of the world would be complete without a comment (or two) about the ‘big one’ – December 21, 2012.  This date has been predicted by several sources, including the Maya, the midwestern native Hopi, at least one metaphysician, and Nostradamus (who is said to have made all sorts of historically accurate predictions, but who apparently ‘borrowed’ a lot of his ideas from other prognosticators and who wasn’t as adept at astronomy [on which most of his predictions were based] as he claimed to be).  If nothing else, this multi-source apocalyptic date has provided enormous amounts of material for television and movie producers, doom-and-gloom prophesiers, shrewd psychics and spiritualists, and Internet web site developers!

What is it that draws people to these stories? What makes some individuals actually believe them? (Apparently hundreds of Mr. Camping’s followers sold and/or gave away all their ‘worldly possessions’ in preparation for yesterday’s predicted event. DUH!)  Why are we obsessed with knowing the future – either our own, or that of the world at large? How would knowing when the world might end (however it does) change the way we live?

I know people who would tell you that their world – as they knew it – had already ended.  I have friends and acquaintances who have lost spouses and partners (through divorce and/or death), children (through death and/or emotional separation), jobs, homes, parents, siblings, pets, physical and/or mental capabilities … the list goes on and on.  In almost every case, they didn’t see it coming (and those who did know the ‘end’ of some part of their life was near couldn’t predict with absolute certainty when it would actually occur).  I don’t think any of them would have wanted to know, either.  Because you can’t change what will be (or what was) – it will (or did) happen and no amount of ‘knowing’ can alter that.  The only aspect of life any of us has control over is what IS – right now, at this moment.

The End is NighCertainly you can live your life worried about whether or not your kids are going to turn out okay, if you’re going to get that raise, how high mortgage rates (or gas prices) are going to go. You can stew over the callous comment made by a colleague, the poor service you received at the restaurant, the ding in the door of your brand new car.  You can fuss over a coffee stain on your shirt, weeds in your garden, racoon poop on your deck.  You can complain about the weather (why, oh why, is that ALWAYS the first topic of conversation on everyone’s lips – no matter what?!?!?), the amount of traffic on the roads, the bad attitude of today’s ‘younger generation’.  You can lament the lack of anything decent to watch on television, the audacity of your neighbour in mowing his lawn and running his leaf blower when you were trying to enjoy a quiet Saturday afternoon in your hammock, the fact that people pick through the fresh bread and buns with their hands instead of using the provided tongs.  You can bemoan the loss of true social interaction, the decline of morals, and the rising of hemlines (or lowering of waistlines).  You can threaten to withdraw yourself from society, cut yourself off from technology, and stop buying overpriced goods and services. 

Walk In The WoodsOr you can step outside and watch the buds opening on the branches of trees, listen to the birdsong, smell the daffodils (or lilacs, or magnolias, or roses, or whatever is blooming in your part of the world – even if you have to go to a greenhouse or florist to do it).  You can call a friend and chat about something other than the weather and your latest argument with your mother / husband / wife / kids / boss.  You can volunteer at a local charity (helping those who have less than you really puts things into perspective), go for a walk in the woods, look through old photo albums, listen to music from ‘way back when’, write a list of all the thing you’re thankful for, pet a cat (or a dog, or a hamster, or a horse), read a good book (try a book of poems), dance, sing (who cares if you’re off-key), paint a picture, blow some bubbles, take a bath, have a nap, sip your favourite drink, go to your favourite restaurant, take a drive in the country …

In other words, you can stop worrying about what’s going to happen in the future and simply live in – and for – the moment. Enjoy it. Stop complaining.  Love your life (no matter how ‘bad’ it might be, someone else likely has it worse – think about the people who are living through the hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, flooding, drought, and wildfires we read about in the news every day and you’ll realize just how ‘good’ you have it!) 

The world is likely going to keep turning for many, many years to come.  Yes, there will be disasters of various magnitudes – and who knows what else – to deal with (globally, regionally, individually), and yes, the world (your world, your life) is going to end someday.  So how do you want to spend the years (months, days, hours) you have left?  I plan to spend them enjoying the wonder of what’s around me – because, after all, I’m already on … the other side of 55.

Live In The Present

  1. May 26, 2011 9:26 am

    Thanks so much for this post…it’s great!

  2. Kate McClare permalink
    May 22, 2011 3:14 pm

    Live like every day is not only your last, but everyone else’s as well. A good thought.

    • May 22, 2011 5:01 pm

      We too often focus on our own (sometimes insignificant) problems and ignore the fact that others are ‘suffering’ as much or more!


  3. May 22, 2011 2:53 pm

    When we were growing up and one of us four kids would whine and complain about anything, my mother would cite a terrible life changing, earth shattering scenario, proceed to tell it, then always punctuate it with, “You know what problems are? Those (that she had just described) are reeeeealllll problems!” and she would drawl out the word “real.” I can hear her now. LOL! : ) Interesting information and good post. Thank you.

    • May 22, 2011 5:00 pm

      My father was the one in our family who always did that! Glad you enjoyed the post!


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