Posts Tagged ‘Armageddon’

The Thinker

Not quite the end of the world as we know it

Sigh. Today was another day when the world was supposed to end, but here I am still alive and frankly feeling rather disappointed. Granted that most end of the world scenarios are bleak. Fire, brimstone, wailing and gnashing of teeth are all usually assumed at the end of the world. In some scenarios the elect (usually those who accept Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior ™) at least get raptured. In general, it’s not the end of the world unless huge numbers of people suffer violently and in blistering pain, then die noisily, painfully and traumatically. It all over in a few hours.

So why was I rooting for the end of the world? Well, at least it would be different. Instead, it’s same old, same old.

There was no brimstone falling this morning when I walked to my car. 7:30 AM found me at the chiropractor for another round of traction to make sure my painful sciatica does not come back. At 10 AM, I was getting my haircut by Basma, who had to reschedule for doomsday because she is flying home to Jerusalem on Monday, three days after the end of the world! Thence I tootled to Wells Fargo Bank, not because I am a customer, but because a check from my money market account won’t process electronically. Finally around 11 AM I made it into the office and I realized the day was a huge disappointment. Another day parking in the same parking lot. Another morning flashing my badge to the security guard as I entered the building. Another trip up the same quiet elevators to my fifth floor office. On my desk was the same peace plant in need of water. Lunch was the same too: salad with chicken pieces dropped on top, with the only variant being the soup de jour (vegetable beef).

It was all the same stuff on the news too. Fiscal cliff. Dysfunctional congress. A snowstorm was moving across the Midwest. The NRA was making the same tired noises, this time in response to the Newtown massacre a week ago. (Their “solution” is to put an armed guard in every school.) And of course there was the usual slow moving climate crisis: melting polar icecaps, loss of biodiversity and most Americans living happily in denial.

Sharon at least found her own exit. Sharon was a lady in our office who died of complications from heart surgery a week ago, at the premature age of 51. She was a sweet lady, a huge Redskins fan, always the first to help others and good at herding us cats: people like me who put our time into our payroll system. It was part of her job to manage us cats so we could actually get paid on time. She did a great job of it because our payroll system is a crappy web-based system seemingly put together by trolls. Her funeral was yesterday and most of us in her herd went to it. We pondered our appreciation for having her in our lives and offered sincere condolences to her grieving family. But during the service we also learned of a blessing from her premature passing: she was spending Christmas with Jesus this year.

That sounds pretty awesome. Rapid climate change and fiscal cliff diving are no longer issues she has to worry about, although I don’t recall her being worried in particular about any of these things. And Jesus sounds like a pretty neat dude. I can think of worse things than hanging around him for eternity, like, say, hanging around this world and watching with daily horror as we slowly kill it.

Ask a Mayan (as we did in January when we went to see Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula) and you learn that they never said the world was going to end today. Rather, their calendar starts afresh. Today is like January 1, 2000 was to the rest of us. It’s a day for celebration, and the Mayans have plenty to celebrate. They may have been about four feet tall when their calendar was invented (their height was limited due to limestone water they drank) but they were amazing in many ways: astronomers and mathematicians arguably more advanced than the ancient Egyptians were at the same time. No, as our Mayan tour guide told us, it’s us Westerners who chose to hear what we wanted to hear. So today became yet another day to proclaim the end of the world and sell a few more newspapers. I won’t hold the Mayans to blame, just shoddy journalists who can’t be bothered to do basic research.

If you were to pick a day when Armageddon actually started, today would probably do, although any day would meet the criteria. Here’s the thing: barring some sort of large asteroid hitting earth (something we would know about) Armageddon is not something that happens quickly. Rather, it happens very slowly. It’s like boiling a frog by putting it in a pan of water on the stove and slowly increasing the heat. Feeling a bit sweaty? I know I am. The end of a world with us humans in it strikes me as an inevitable consequence of global climate change and our dogged determination to largely ignore it. It’s coming at us way faster than we can adapt to it. While it’s impossible to say any one particularly extreme event is a direct result of climate change, Hurricane Sandy sure felt like Mother Nature was giving us a wakeup call. So for me Armageddon began officially on October 30, 2012, the day when Sandy made landfall on the Eastern Seaboard.

The earth will survive, of course, but humans won’t. There are far too many of us to keep the Earth in something resembling a natural balance. We make it worse on ourselves by craving a first world lifestyle. It’s not hard at all to see how this ends, and it won’t be with a joint Kumbaya. Sandy should have been our wakeup call but we will rebuild along our coasts anyhow, only to see these areas get soon wacked again by the next Sandy. Eventually we will figure out we need to move further inland and build on higher elevations, but that of course doesn’t solve the problem, it just lessens our pain.

Our whole ecosystem is rapidly changing, and not for the better. Lowlands are surrendering to the sea. Storms are becoming larger and more destructive. Farmlands are becoming deserts. Crop yields are lessening because it is simply too hot or too parched during the summers for food to grow to maturity. In good years the Obamas of the world will try to inspire and lead us. We may cheer them a bit but mostly we will prefer to wallow in our own issues rather than wrestle with the macroscopic ones. In bad years the John Boehners of the world will tell us to plug cotton into our ears and pray about your concerns at church.

We already know what causes this real Armageddon that is unfolding: reliance on fossil fuels, cravings for first world lifestyles, humans breeding like bunnies and succumbing to greed. These actions make the world hotter and it makes people meaner. Climate change is killing us and the species we rely on to survive.

The fiscal cliff diving of the moment inadvertently reveals the real end of the world underway. There are too many of us and the world cannot increase in size just because we keep having too many babies. So we enter a resource competitive era and that means someone has to take it on the chin. No one will volunteer to be the first to reduce their standard of living, so we will duke it out instead, and most likely this means the poor will get more wretched and the rich will get richer. The last bloodied man standing can keep his SUV and iPhone but there will be no place to go and no one to call. Eventually he will die, Armageddon will end, but because we won’t be around to tip the balance perhaps the Earth will finally have a chance to restore a natural balance.

 
The Thinker

Never enter hell on a full bladder

While a new year has arrived, there is plenty of evidence that as we begin the second decade of the 21st century, for many of us our minds have not evolved past 33 A.D. That is the year that some Christians believe Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected and later that year ascended into heaven. Since 33 A.D., Jesus has been cooling his heels, presumably at the right hand of The Father, waiting for the moment for his return to Earth. Then, according to the Bible, the faithful get raptured and depending on which Left Behind book takes your fancy all sorts of things that are really nasty will happen to the rest of us. The bottom line is that for us damned either (a) we will descend into Hell for all eternity (not a pleasant prospect) or (b) we die, and not just our physical body but our immortal soul as well. Poof. We turn into nothingness. We are declared a factory reject and discarded like used toilet paper.

As for The Saved ™, it’s off to heaven for all eternity I guess (although some think they will dwell here on earth, which will become an earthly paradise). There life must be wholly spiritual, you are never too far from God or Jesus, you can be pals with St. Jude, harp and lute playing is all the rage, and days beyond count will be spent in rhapsody singing Hosannas. It’s sort of like having an orgasm forever, only better because it’s clean, not dirty and it lasts forever. Remember that cheerleader you nailed behind the bleachers in high school, who threw her legs over your shoulders while you plunged away into her like Superman? Heaven is much better than that.

Now we can put Judgment Day on the calendar. Mark yours now. Put it in your Google Calendar as an all day appointment: May 21st, 2011. At least that’s what Harold Camping of Oakland, California believes and he ought to know because he runs an organization called Family Radio. It is true that the Bible says that no man knows the exact date of the Last Judgment. It turns out that if you study the Bible it’s a solvable problem. A convenient calculator helps with the math. Here’s how he figures it:

The number 5, . . . equals “atonement.” Ten is “completeness.” Seventeen means “heaven.” Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011. “Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.,” he began. “Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that’s 1,978 years.” Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days – the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year. Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500. Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500. Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared. “Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story,” Camping said. “It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved. “I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that,” Camping said.

Yep, it’s all there! Camping is a former civil engineer, but he sure has studied his Bible. Apparently, Jesus left little breadcrumbs that enlightened Christians could follow. It’s all so clear now. No point in paying any insurance premiums beyond May 21st. You will need a different kind of currency in the next world, and it has to do with the purity of your soul and how much you grokked Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior ™.

I should be quaking in my boots because, no, I have not accepted Jesus Christ as my PL&S. Which means if Camping and his amazing math are correct, in 132 days my life of reckless hedonism is over. It’s hell and brimstone for me and my Buddhist wife, my daughter, my cat and my siblings. My father, age 84, will probably make it as he has lived a very virtuous and religious life and presumably my late mother is already there, ready to hold the gate open for him. My Dad ushers at church and attends Mass faithfully. He is Catholic, however, and I’m not sure but I suspect Mr. Camping doubts any Catholics will make it because of the papal infallibility thing. Or something.

132 days. I was thinking that since I put on a few pounds over the holidays, it’s time to take them off. Now I’m thinking it’s time to put more pounds on. If I only have 132 days left, I need to eat plenty of chocolate, and the good kind. I’m talking Godiva and Ghirardelli. I also need some serious debauchery because, alas, my life is sadly absent of fleshly sins. It’s time to put an ad in the Craigslist Casual Encounters section for a sleazy hookup with 420, which I have never tried. In general, I need to refresh myself on the Seven Deadly Sins because I forgot what most of them are and I need to make sure I sample them all. Times a wasting.

I feel so foolish for donating all this money to charity recently. With the end of the year, the pleas arrive in the mail and perhaps anxious for a few extra charitable deductions, I start cutting checks. In December, checks went out to So Others Might Eat, Friends of Homeless Animals and more prosaic places like Washington Consumers Checkbook. I hope they spend my donations quickly because after May 21st apparently it won’t matter. Presumably, all but a handful of those homeless bums and families being fed and sheltered in D.C. in part with our money are damned like me. Homeless cats and dogs may be nice creatures but don’t get to entertain us behind the pearly gates. How can a nice purring fuzzy thing top The Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Hopefully, there is still time for me to accept Jesus as my PL&S, but not according to Allison Warden. Today’s Washington Post shows a picture of the fine looking young woman. She has had her car professionally detailed to make sure we know the date, which conveniently provides a link to the wecanknow.com web site where I am sure all these things are made perfectly clear. According to Warden, it’s probably too late for me. Despite Jesus’s teachings that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”, she says it’s too late for me and probably for you if you are Unsaved ™. So you should definitely join me and consume large quantities of Godiva chocolates while you can.

The sad reality for the Allison Warden and Harold Campings of the world is that come May 21st I will have forgotten all about the end of the world. And the truth is, on May 21st I am infinitely more likely to die from a lightning strike than because of Armageddon. Moreover, even if Jesus did populate the Bible with clues like these, me thinks that Harold Camping’s calculations are probably a bit off.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus was 33 when he died, and the year 1 A.D. is an estimate anyhow of his birth, if he existed at all, which we have to take wholly on faith. The number zero did not even exist back then, so maybe he died in 34 A.D. Then there is the minor matter that calendars were all askew back then, we switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, then there are all those leap years, some of which we accounted for and some of which we did not. All those leap seconds over the years must have added up to an hour or two. Moreover, his calculations for all their precision don’t address the time of day when Armageddon is to commence. I’m guessing Christ will split the difference and make it when the sun is at the prime meridian over Jerusalem, as a courtesy to his followers who might want to make one last stop to the bathroom before The Rapture begins. God probably won’t save you if you are taking a crap during the big event.

No matter. Come May 22nd, 2011 Harold Camping will doubtless discover a small error in his calculations so the time and date will be reset once again for the next group of devout suckers. As for me, I will be sleeping in late because that’s what I do on Saturday mornings. Just to be on the safe side though, I will try to hit the bathroom before the sun reaches the prime meridian in Jerusalem. If I am going to hell, I don’t want to do it with a full bladder.

 

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