Friday, December 21, 2012

The End Is . . . . . Hmmmm?

      I was never sure when, on 12/21/12, the world was supposed to end.  So, I thought I'd better hedge my bets and send this out anyway so that folks who've come to expect something on Friday afternoons weren't disappointed.  Of course, if you're reading this on Saturday the 22nd or later, then the expected (by some) cataclysm passed you by.  Given all of the worry (hype?) about the Mayan calendar over the last many months, the cynical among us might think that there was a commercial tie-in.  All I could find, however, in searches on "Mayan Calendar" and "economics" was that the calendar predicted our economic collapse (many doomsday sites!).  That, and that canned goods have been flying off the shelves in Russia, making Russian grocers happy.  But assuming we're all still here, the only possible explanation is that someone was wrong about the Mayan calendar/prediction.
      I, for one, don't think the Mayans were wrong; they simply weren't predicting the end of the world.  The best analysis I've heard about their calendar is that the Mayans understood history or the cosmos functioning in a cyclical manner.  And, that all that was going to happen today, is that one cycle would end, and another begin.  Kind of like our current sense of whatever happens every year at midnight December 31/January 1, or when the odometer in a car starts over at 00000000.  Or, as I've experienced at milestone birthdays:  the next day I still put on my pants one leg at a time.  So . . . who was wrong?  I trust I don't have to answer that!
      This has, however, given me reason to think again about our fascination with end-of-the-world, apocalyptic predictions.  We can easily recall Mr. Harold Camping's prediction that everything would come crashing to a close on May 21st (and then October 21st), 2011. Thousands of folks believed him and sold everything in advance of their being spirited (raptured) away from the earth just in time to avoid a global catastrophe.  He backed away from his predictions after they failed to happen, saying that he'd miscalculated.  In other words, he was wrong.  And he was wrong, I would say, because he probably wanted to believe he was right!
     And so it has ever been.  For whatever reasons (and I'm sure there are good psychological reasons), we want to believe we are right, and we will often bend whatever evidence we have to support our position.  One of the main themes that runs through the biblical material -- both in the Hebrew scriptures as well as the New Testament -- is that there seems to be a constant battle between "false prophets" and those God actually appoints.  (This website will give you ALL the examples you'd want to see, as well as the "motives" of the false prophets).  Those false prophets were "successful" in that they told people what they wanted to hear; they confirmed their listeners desire to be "right".
      But, not only do we want to be right (I mean, who wakes up in the morning saying to themselves, "It's my goal to be wrong today!"), we also want things to be better than they, perhaps, are.  It's not surprising then, that many of the folks who want a cataclysmic end believe that they'll be rewarded for their endurance of hardships, while their (earthly) oppressors will get their just desserts.  In other words, they want their own "darkness" to turn to light.  And so the false prophets find a ready audience for their pronouncements.
      Don't we all want our darkness to turn to light? And, as this day of (so-called) Mayan doom occurs on the Winter Solstice, there must be something more than a coincidence.  Just as there must be more than a coincidence that so many religious traditions have some sort of "light" oriented holiday at this time of year (Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yalda).   It is the time (at least in the northern hemisphere) where we need some affirmation that the days will get longer and warmer.  We need affirmation that the world will re-awaken and continue to feed and sustain us.  In short, we want hope.
      Unfortunately, the "hope" I see in the purveyors both of doom, and of easy (passive, otherworldly) success, is a hope of disengagement with reality.  It isn't a hope that seeks to create a better future.  All past predictions of cataclysmic endings have proven false; I would assume that all future ones will as well.  Our hope, then, in this "darkness" (however defined or experienced) is to enter into reality, and apply ourselves to the task of increasing light, warmth, joy, justice and peace to those around us.
Blessings of the season,

Chaplain Gary

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