Sunday, September 11, 2011

The End is Near!

Posted By on Sun, Sep 11, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Dear Jack,

These days I find myself thinking more and more about the end times. I'm not a religious person, though I did grow up going to church and reading Revelations. I don't really buy into the idea that there's going to be this massive battle between good and evil, Jesus and Satan, or whatever.

At the same time, I don't see how the world can keep going the way it's going. Things seem to be falling apart, don't you think? I just having a feeling that it's all coming to an end. I don't know how it's going to happen. Maybe an economic meltdown, maybe global warming or a new ice age, maybe the supervolcano in Yellowstone Park, or a comet, or something.

I don't know how it's going to happen, I just know it's going to happen in my lifetime. My kids are going to grow up in a world I can't even imagine, provided they get a chance to grow up at all. Sometimes I wonder what I need to do to survive, other times I wonder why anyone would want to survive.

I know I shouldn't dwell on this, but I can't help it. My wife doesn't understand my anxieties, or my desire to stockpile and prepare for the future. She says we have enough to worry about today without finding things to worry about that aren't ever going to happen. She says I need to talk to someone, but I don't know who. I don't want to see a preacher, because he will only try to stick my nose in a Bible, and a psychiatrist is just going to put me on some pill.

Anxious About the End Times

Dear End Timer,

Your wife thinks you need to talk to somebody and you thought of me? Maybe the first thing we need to address is your decision-making processes.

My advice to you is to turn off the Discovery Channel. They ought to call it the Apocalypse Channel. The fact that so many television shows are dedicated to speculations about the end of the world should tell you that you are not alone, nor are you very unusual. You just haven't found a way to make a profit off your imagination the way they have.

The human species seems fascinated by disaster porn. I think it's hardwired into our species. Scary stories are our way of mentally preparing ourselves to face the worst, and there's nothing worse than the Apocalypse, is there? Historically, there have been dozens of disasters that wiped out entire civilizations. From an evolutionary standpoint, those who were mentally prepared to survive were the ones who survived. So it could happen. But just because it has happened, just because it could happen, doesn't mean it will happen.

Every generation thinks it's going to be the last. As we begin to face our own mortality, we just can't imagine the world going on without us. So we construct elaborate fantasies about the world's destruction. Why this should give us comfort, I don't know, but religions are founded upon these fantasies. The Book of Revelations, for example, was probably written with the expectation that the end was nigh. The early Christians certainly believed Jesus was coming any moment. All the signs pointed to it. As long as people have been people, they've been convinced the world was about to end. It hasn't ended yet.

In the end (ahem), you have to recognize the contradiction of the human condition and accept it. Your fear convinces you that something bad is about to happen. It's difficult to accept that nothing is going to happen, because that would be to admit that your fears are irrational. Therefore, because you are afraid, you must have a good reason to be afraid, otherwise you would be crazy. But you're not crazy. You're normal. Crazy would be to go out and convince other people that your fears are real.

Accept it, live with it, dwell on it if you like, even stockpile if it makes you feel better - you can always use those supplies when the Big One hits. But don't forget to live for today, too. Love your wife, hug your kids, eat a peach.

Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight:

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