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May, 2011

The End of Times

by Larry

Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and other physicists have told us that time is not actually as we perceive it and that it can both speed up and slow down. Perhaps it may even on occasion go in reverse. Or maybe it is simply fixed and immutable, all one thing, an "everywhen," like a river that has no one place that is "present" but just is throughout, though we like instead to break time down into the our convenient categories of past, present, and future, designations which in certain ways are less relevant in science. However, whether scientists or their less specialized brethren, we do generally agree on one thing, that ultimately our world will cease to be.

Among us are not a few, in fact, who believe that the destruction of life on Earth, our "end of times," is at hand. Regular readers may note that this month's newsletter is coming out a bit earlier than usual. We thought it best to complete publication sooner considering the warnings lately received that we face an imminent and "certain" commencement of the last days, on 5/21/11.

I have often found it remarkable that, with all of time to choose from, various individuals still have managed, repeatedly, to precisely pin-point exactly when things will come to an end for many if not all of us. Such predictions are seldom based on astronomical data or any other natural "clocks" that might be checked to ascertain how close we are getting to an existential "high noon." Yet with a wizardry notable only for its without exception being proven wrong, not just by one hour, day, or year but by at least decades if not whole centuries, a host of predictors of these never to materialize eschatological epochs continues to come forward with new admonitions that, as of quite specific moments in the vast geological record, the end is once again about to be nigh.

I do not know a great deal about the prehistoric record, for obvious reasons, but it appears from various excavations that humankind really did, not once but several times, come close to extinction. Alas, they likely did so without benefit of the kinds of forecasts, thanks to our having reasonably common languages and global communications, which we get today. For all we know, however, our ancestors who made it through those near miss evolutionary bottlenecks might have done so partly with the aid of their forms of shaman or the like.

I do not speak here though of those who warn of real threats which must be averted lest our species perish, for instance those who tell us that if a named asteroid, which will soon be looming near, exits our region of space this time in a particular route, then its course on returning several years later will exactly coincide with the location of our planet upon its new arrival in this region of the solar system, in which case we had better find a way to use gravity to our advantage and coax it just enough away to prevent disaster. No, these predictors of doom appear to get a sort of delight in the prospect of disaster and, far from wanting to prevent it, are hoping all may be done to assure its occurrence.

Writings in a book of the Christian Bible, "Revelations," are quite poetic and dramatic and yet are vague enough for many interpretations, giving rise to all sorts of Armageddon scenarios over the years. One gives some credence to the notion that, since the rebirth in power of a tribe of Israel, in 1948, with the establishment of a state of that name, the clock is now running toward assured catastrophe, especially if there is then a nuclear war between Israel and its enemies. "Knowing" this, adherents of some Christian belief systems are against the resolution of conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. Such potential peace accords might undermine a person's belief in our ticking down "time bombs" and thwart hopes for annihilation during his or her lifespan.

It must be quite an ego boost to call the last day(s) correctly. So many have tried before, and though all have finally been proven wrong, as the calendar inexorably has just kept moving forward past whichever dates they said would absolutely be "The End," nonetheless, many more prophets of doom have stepped up to the plate to try their hands at this fun game.

The Croatia Armageddon, Cool Picture Gallery (public domain)

In the closest to fruition caution about our demise, then, the interpretation by a Christian gentleman named Harold Camping is that on 5/21/11 there will occur the "Rapture," when, according to another book of the Bible, both the dead in Christ and those who "are alive and remain" will go up together into the air to meet the Lord and be with Him forever.

Some passages suggest that only 144,000 survivors may be taken up to dwell through infinity with the Lord, but there are many more than that who believe in these end days and hope to be among the final chosen people. All the rest of us, almost 7 billion per the latest census, are to endure torment, judgment, and death, beginning in the next few days and culminating on 10/21/11. The surface of our world is to undergo historically unprecedented cataclysms to help bring about this result. Many believe, for example, that the recent earthquakes and/or tsunamis in Indonesia, Haiti, Japan, Spain, etc. were but small appetizers to a huge main course which will be served up for us almost immediately, starting 5/21.

Interestingly, Camping had forecast the end of days once before, saying it would occur in 1994. Evidently we are to believe him now though he was proven not credible then, as 1995 rolled around with no regard or respect for Mr. Camping and his certainties.

He says he is confident in being right this time. In case he once more turns out to be wrong, however, there is "hope" yet for those who want the world to end. 2012 is seen as our best chance yet for the fulfillment of a so long prophesied end of days. In this case, we are told, both the Mayan calendar and Christian predictions coincide to confirm time's unwinding to be at an end.

Further, Michel de Nostradamus, a widely noted French physician and seer, in 1555 published a massive book of prophesies in which he is said to have successfully predicted both Napoleon and Hitler. He is famous in our current century for having over five centuries ago supposedly forecast 9/11 with the following (translated) words:

"In the year of the new century and nine months, From the sky will come a great King of Terror… The sky will burn at forty-five degrees. Fire approaches the great new city… In the city of York there will be a great collapse, two twin brothers torn apart by chaos while the fortress falls the great leader will succumb third big war will begin when the big city is burning."

Interestingly, he apparently concurs with the Mayan calendar's end in what we call 2012 and the beliefs of certain Christians that Armageddon will then be at hand, his verses seeming to indicate extraordinary devastation in that year.

Despite numerous fascinating coincidences which may be found among the trillions of words which have been written by men and women since words began to be recorded, and a multitude of discredited forecasts of our final days, somehow, "by the skin of our teeth," we humans have prevailed. This time may be different, though I doubt it.

Surely, one day, the predictions will turn out to have been "accurate." If enough people keep throwing dice, sooner or later someone will come along who rolls doubles 50 times in a row. Yet do I think our end, whether it comes in fire, ice, torment, a bang, or a whimper, will occur ordained by a Supreme Being, in fulfillment of a prophecy, and singling out one among millions of species for special judgment? Not a chance.

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