Apparently, tommorow is supposed to be the End of the World.
I hope you have packed your things.
The curious thing about Doomsday prophecies is not simply the supreme consistency with which they have all been wrong thus far…
…but that being eternally wrong doesnt deter people from further speculation. You begin to suspect that there is more going on than fear of God or Death. The fervour with which such things are peddled suggests something more interesting than Eternal Damnation is afoot.
But what could it be?
Having folk forever examining their consciences on the premise that the earth is imminently about to open up and swallow them whole, is a good way of keeping potential miscreants in line. Its also got to make you feel pretty damned important to be there at the time. You would be eligible for a free T-shirt, “Armaggedon, I was There”, with a skull and cross bones motif, just to show how hard you are.
You might give legitimate consideration to the thought that there is just a little passive aggression in exaggeratedly running about to dodge a falling sky, or loudly announcing that Gods Wrath will be visited on Teatime.
Its scary. Nursery will never be the same again.
Perhaps membership of an Apocalyptic Cult fills some unacknowledged need that attending church socials just doesnt quite cut. Meet and Greet is hardly as punchy as having ringside seats to the Final Reckoning.
They do say that giving a person news on their imminent demise has a somewhat invigorating effect on the psyche. Having your time left measured by a wristwatch can be positively galvanising.
Maybe if we were to look at individual responses to knowing the exact time of their own death we might get some insight into this collective phenomenon of being eternally preoccupied with the End of the World..
and not just because we can now do that to ourselves…
Convicted criminals whose countdown to the rope or the chair comes close to the catastrophic expectation of a collision with Planet X or the vengeful fires of Yahwehs wrath.
How prisoners face their end seems to be the same the world over. They obsess about food and need more than usual amounts of bathroom time. The famous last meal is our human response to the helplessness and horror of being dragged towards a death that someone or something has arranged for you.
Sometimes the prisoner comforts themselves with something that reminds them of home and childhood. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber wanted mint chocolate chip ice cream. Ricky Ray Rector wanted Pecan Pie he decided to save for later. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy went the whole hog and had shrimp, a bucket of KFC chicken, fries and several pounds of strawberries.
The exception to the rule seems to be Victor Fueger, hung in Iowa at the age of 28, who asked for a single unpitted olive, though, to be fair, it was in the hope that the olive would grow into a tree above his grave as a symbol of peace….
So human response to death being a tad more concrete than at-some-point-in-time is to feast and comfort themselves in any way they can. Eat, drink and make merry for tomorrow you die.
The main difference between the convict being marched down the Green Mile and the End Timers is that the folk all dressed in white gathering on the hillside at dawn of the appointed day are all really glad to be there.
Because if you are riteous and sorry and about to die but still somehow out and about on your own recognizance you might feel entitled to be exempted from the rules for a spell. After all, it is a special occasion.
And so it makes you wonder if our preoccupation with having life cut short represents a secret need to be momentarily freed of the repressive attitudes that cannot help but lurk beneath first-and-only. A wish for some brief respite from the Treadmill and all the life denying rules and expectations that go with it. A need to eclipse whatever it is that promotes meanness, that taboos tenderness and intimacy. Something both to mend and to remember the trauma of being ripped from the Great Mother.
After all, what does your town do if you are all convinced the world ends tommorow? You forgive your enemies, make love and party till dawn.