December 14, 2010

What Will It Take?

To many observers, we are living in 'end times' as prophesied in various traditions; is it all just hype?
There are a couple of Bible verses that are particularly appropriate for the tenor of these times:
(1) Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? (Jesus' words, Matt 16:3, Luke 12:56 alternate rendering). (2) Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. [4] They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (Peter's words, 2 Pet 3:3,4)

Isn't the world at large behaving precisely as these verses describe? On the one hand, there's an abundance of environmental signs seeking to be discerned. Perhaps the most notable example is the debate over 'climate change.' As I write this, a world conference on 'global warming' is wrapping up in Cancun, Mexico-- which, just recorded its lowest temperatures on record, coincidentally. Also happening presently is the simultaneous eruption of volcanoes in widely separated parts of the world-- Indonesia, Iceland, Italy, and South America, (and there may be others). Animal species are disappearing; strange sonic booms, and humming noises are reported in diverse locales; fireballs have been captured on film in various places, including the Canadian prairies. Concern is being voiced about the behavior of the earth's magnetic field, leading some to speculate if a pole reversal may be coming. The frequency of major earthquakes has increased, with devastating results. More than half a million people have died as a result of the great, SE Asian quake/tsunami of Dec. 2004, and the earthquake in Haiti of Jan. 2010, (not to forget the magnitude 8.8 quake in Chile in 2010). I could cite other calamities that can easily qualify as 'signs of the times,' but the reader can surely think of others, too, without much prompting.

And then there's the immediate chorus of the 'scoffers,' the deniers, those who would really prefer to believe in yesterday, as the Beatles' song goes. 'Climate change... what climate change?' they scoff, even as Europe digs out of another unprecedented winter blast, and transportation is paralyzed in the Mid-west and Eastern USA. Volcanoes-- so what? There are lots of volcanic mountains all over the world; some are bound to erupt simultaneously at times. And so it goes; they have a soothing rationale for any and every disturbing situation you can present. Everything is going on as it has since the world began; we're just better at detecting the little fluctuations. For those readers who are captivated by this comforting reasoning, no amount of evidence can dislodge their confidence in Darwinian uniformitarianism. Like the passengers on the steam ship Titanic, they just know that their vessel is unsinkable-- that's what all the experts told them, in any case.

Yet, if the assertion of impending doom is accurate, what would it take to get the majority to finally take note that it's not business as usual on planet Earth? We've already had numerous events that, if placed in sequence, indicate a trend of increasing severity. Suppose there occurred a major earthquake in one part of the earth that generates a killer tsunami... followed within hours by another major quake on the other side of the world, and all of this mayhem resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, possibly even into the six figures. Would such a chain of events be the tipping point of belief for a majority of the populace? I suspect it would unsettle quite a large segment; but for how long? Would the mainstream be ready to acknowledge that it may signal a new order of instability? You can be sure the Powers that Be would use all their arsenal of media manipulation tricks to smother the flames of anxiety among the great masses. Ironically, they use those tricks presently to fan the fires of apprehension over the vague threat of terrorism. In the scenario of global disaster, they would trot out all kinds of talking heads to appear on all their captive, tri-literal TV stations and utter all manner of scientific assurances that it's really just a string of bad luck.

Okay then, if it's more than the mere 'statistical variability' of the natural world, then what is happening? Well, if you examine the data-- the records of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, over the past 150 or so years when reliable readings have been collected-- you see the trends. (I'd argue that all it takes is for anyone in the 'older age' bracket with a good memory and an unbiased outlook.) And in this case, the trend is definitely not our friend. Of all the indicators, the most telling are the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes, since this reveals the relative activity of the Earth's crust. And we humans live, like the fleas on a dog, on the very surface of the terrestrial crust. We know that the land masses constitute an interlocking set of 'plates' that are in constant, slow, minute movement caused by a number of forces acting upon them. Inevitably, they grind against each other, and 'something has to give.' The periodic adjustments in position of one plate against another are felt as tremors, and when more energetic, as quakes. The trend reveals an increase in the proportion of quakes in the more severe range, which would be those registering 5.0 or greater on the Richter scale.

The obvious question (or criticism) is, where does the earthquake trend end? And why should it be in a global catastrophe? Reasonable questions. Here's where the element of faith-- or doubt-- emerges. Yes, runaway global warming, or a world-wide re-settling of tectonic plates, might cause great upheaval for a while, but humanity would eventually readjust and life would go on. But, numerous ancient traditions, differing widely on the surface, show a surprising overlap in their depictions of the 'end of the Age.' Why should one listen to such 'antiquated myths' in this 'scientific' age? Precisely because many of these traditions describe general societal conditions in terms that sound amazingly contemporary. Again, the skeptics can unearth hoary texts from Roman, Greek or Egyptian times that sound like modern laments over the decline of society or the end of the world. That's true in some ways. On closer scrutiny, these texts are usually seen to be local and subjective complaints. What the apocalyptic prophecies of widely separated traditions describe is a set of indicators that read much like the signs of these times, that I've already outlined. Moreover, most of the ancient oracles express a cyclical model of time-- i.e. the world experiences a predetermined rhythm of cosmic influences that manifest as repeated patterns of events in the physical realm and in the affairs of mankind. In that model, the world has previously undergone global catastrophe that has extinguished all but a handful of survivors. It is this very concurrence of end-times prognostication that, I would argue, itself constitutes a veritable sign of the times.

If this story is true, why, you wonder, would the authorities want to cover up the evidence pointing to what is called an 'extinction level event' (or ELE)? The answer lies in pure yet unavoidable cynicism: because they want to keep the money rolling in! That's the dark, bottom line, folks; keep the masses ignorant and working feverishly, earning money that the elite have a dozen ways of scamming into their bloated bank accounts. Think of the alternate scenario before scoffing again. If the governors were to say, 'We think the world is headed for an ELE, so you might as well make preparations now,' what do you think would happen? Would the majority continue to toil at their odious jobs, continue to buy all kinds of frivolous 'goods,' continue to pay their rent or mortgages, and so on? Given the past deference of society to their political and scientific establishment, they would take the warning seriously, and hence, would not likely continue living as they do now. In other words, the system would break down quite soon.

You might object, why would the elite want to continue amassing money if they were certain the world was heading for collapse, where the monetary system would be useless? Good question! The thing is that the wealthy elite really believe that they can use their resources to survive the catastrophe in underground bunkers and so on, and then emerge to resume life at the top of the heap (so to speak). It's a bizarre hope, yet their experts have assured them it's do-able. Around every big-shot kingpin, there are always the sycophants who ingratiate themselves by repeating what they figure the boss wants to hear... and, who knows, they figure-- it just might succeed. Meanwhile, let the ignorant masses proceed blithely to their doom; it will be easier for the elite to reestablish their hegemony after several billion 'drones' have perished. So goes their self-serving reasoning.

What about you, dear reader-- would you gladly lap up any official blandishments that make the problem go away? Will you cling to any available scrap of denial in the hope that it's all a terrible conspiracy theory? Whether big, spectacular, and widespread, or small, negligible and local, the signs of these times will continue to occur, and call for your attention. I urge you to start thinking about such things now, because once they happen in your neighborhood, it may be too late to consider what it all means.
"Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe." (John 14:29)

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