Friday, December 14, 2012

The funny thing about aliens, Mayans, and the end of the world.

I love Signs.  My husband and I watched it at the drive-in when it came out.  We were actually parked in the back row, sitting in the bed of our pickup, under the stars, surrounded by a field of full grown corn.  It was deliriously creepy and we jumped every time we heard a stalk of corn crackle or brush up against something.  It was fun to let ourselves get swept up in the concept of how the world might end, and how human creativity and resilience, potentially coupled with divine intervention, might bring about pockets of survivors.

I’ve read articles about the zombie, Armageddon, end-of-the-world trend, and I find it kind of amusing.  Of course, there have been seasons of end-times obsession throughout human history; even the Bible includes such stories.  But there seems to be more widespread interest and fodder for it, perhaps more pessimism about our collective future, in recent times – what with the advent of the atomic age, the mega-storms and floods of our inconvenient ecology, and the nagging fear that computers might be devouring our souls, even as they edge curiously closer to Terminator-like self awareness.

I know people who spend time and energy pursuing these unfortunate possibilities.  They wonder about whether the government is covering up alien abductions.  They worry that the ice caps are going to melt and drown us.  They grow garlic to ward off vampires.  Sometimes they arm themselves, sometimes they stockpile canned goods.  Sometimes they don’t do anything, except for wring their hands and worry.

I thought the whole alien thing through a while back.  This is what I concluded.  If there are no aliens: awesome, there is nothing to worry about.  If there are aliens: they’re either benevolent, or keeping to a ceasefire.  If they have the technology to travel through space to our world, we are, by definition, at their mercy.  If the government is hiding them from us, they are either complying with an agreement that is keeping us at peace with them, or protecting us earthlings from the mass chaos that all the alien-fearing worriers would potentially incite.  Either way, we’re actually better off to go with it, than to fight it.  Again, there is really nothing for me to worry about.

Now we are reaching the end of the Mayan calendar, and the world, once again, sits with baited breath, waiting to see if this is really it.  I think for most rationally minded, healthy individuals, these subjects are all a matter of entertainment and diversion, but for the few who are still feeling anxious, wondering which day might be your last, I have some suggestions that might bring you comfort, or deeper anxiety:

1.       You are going to die.  I’m sorry to deliver the news so callously, but I hope you’ve been informed of this before.  Live each day with the full and transformative knowledge that your days and minutes are numbered, and it would behoove you to make good use of each and every one you are blessed to enjoy.  It could end for you at any moment.

2.       The world is not going to last forever.  Again, how long or how short it will go on is not for us to know.  It has been a beautiful, joyful place for humans to dwell, and I, for one, am thankful to have been born here, and not on Mercury, where my life expectancy would certainly have been much shorter – even if 12/21 is the end for Earth.

3.       Contemplating and preparing for events that are out of our control is futile, and distracts from #1.

4.       If the world ends next Friday, you will not care on Saturday.

Some people would say that I can be callous about the end of the world, because I have a Christian faith that asserts an afterlife.  For many, the promise of heaven is enough to sooth their fears about death and end times.  And I cannot deny that the Christian promise of an eternal utopia is both appealing, and potentially soothing.  However, my faith offers me something else that even some non-Christians, or Christians who feel less certain about Heaven might appreciate: my faith offers me assurance that I am in the care of a loving Creator, who intends well for myself and all humanity, regardless of what absurd trials may challenge us.  And my faith offers me a compass in life – an ethical measure and a foundation for my identity as a child of God – that gives me confidence to choose right and live meaningfully.  No matter what day is my last, I will come to that moment and know that I have done my very best to live well.  That, to me, is the best possible end to an earthly life, whenever it arrives.  I will rest in peace.  My dearest wish is for others to go through life with a similar knowledge and assurance.

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1

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