The End of the World is Nigh: 21/12/2008

Does December 21st 2008 (11.12 am GMT) strike a chord with you? It will. I shall be in Ghana then, and the fanatical charismatic Christian churches will be whipping their supplicants into a crescendo – if they have read their Mayan, Druid, Chinese scientific futurologists claims about this particular day. There appear to be innumerable warnings that the world will change irrevocably come Judgment morning. While the soothsayers are in some accord, so, it appears may be the scientists. This is because Earth lines up exactly on the axis of the Milky Way, in direct and rare congruence with the Black Hole that lies, menacingly at its centre. There is, some say, a likelihood of transgressive solar flares disrupting all communications, the magnetic poles could flip and/or appalling elemental forces unleashed. On the other hand, if the science is discounted, the clairvoyants (using the ancient sources mentioned above) predict a massive asteroid collision or something equally calamitous.

Try Googling the date, and you will see it big time in the fear stakes. I was alerted to it by a History Channel programme that was so alarmist I hardly savoured the wine I was drinking at the time.

So, what is the import of all this on us mortal souls? Woody Allen said, pithily, that life is hard and then we die. What seems to be wired into us is some mysterious desire NOT to know the date and time of our death. We live in perpetual denial of any construct that undermines the open-endedness of our days, as though, superstitiously, to admit such thinking would take away the final vestiges of our belief in immortality. The fear of death is bad enough and is the central battering ram at the doors of atheism. But to KNOW the exact moment of extinction would actually change every religion as we know it.

The death of everyone – or most of us – on one particular day creates a certain kind of fateful frenzy. No longer do we have to contemplate our own individual deaths, as some kind of unique solipsistic event and, therefore, memorable but now we have to share the finality with everyone else. Sartre said, “Hell is Others” which sums it up, really. I want my own, unique ending, not some messy travesty of an apocalypse involving all those people I don’t know and never met. How banal and anonymous!

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