Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dies Irae, Dies Illa

There is a billboard I pass each day while going to work.  It currently displays, gigantically, a reference to the date May 21.  It notes, correctly I think, that this date is coming, but also claims it will be the long awaited (by some) last day.  There is some group whose elderly pastor claims that this is the case based--not surprisingly I suppose--on his reading of the Bible and through the magic of numbers which appear in or may be inferred from the Bible and which when added together somehow establish that May 21, 2011 will be the happy day when some few will be saved and the rest of us will suffer.

The pastor previously thought this glad event would take place in 1994.  He modestly acknowledges that this was a miscalculation.  He didn't thoroughly understand the Bible in his youth.  He is now 89 years old.  He may therefore reasonably anticipate that his last day is coming relatively soon, in any case.

The Day of Wrath is yet again upon us, then.  It comes up now and then, and passes, until those of us inclined to do so select another, and another.  I suspect a selection will be made by someone sometime after this coming May 21st.

The "end times" so many love to anticipate--and hope to witness--have come and gone rather often, also.  We're told they are to be marked by disasters and all kinds of horrible signs, and wars, and generally by all kinds of evil.  It's easy to see, then, why we've thought they have come so many times before.  The history of humanity is a kind of unending "end times."  The real "end times" will have to be very remarkable indeed for anyone to notice.

What have we (or some of us, in any event) to gain from participating in these delusions?  I'm inclined to think there must be some reason groups of us will now and then gather together and go to some place, some hill perhaps, or some church, in anticipation of the last day, only to eventually wander back to our dull lives when it fails once again to come.  Christians in particular seem inclined to do this once in awhile.  It may be that this is due to the honor in which prophets have been held in the Abrahamic tradition and, of course, to the so-called Book of Revelations which given our track record doesn't seem to reveal much on which we may rely.  But other peoples seem to have relished the thought that some cataclysm will end civilization as we know it as well, though not in the same way, and that they will be around to see it.

We all end in time.  We each have our own last day.  Perhaps the fact that it is peculiarly our own in the sense that others and all the rest of the universe carry on regardless is something we find most annoying.  So annoying, in fact, that we hope for the day when everything else will accompany us into oblivion instead of succeeding us, possibly becoming better, happier, in a future we will not experience.  Is this macabre expectation simply an example of the fact that misery loves company?  It may be the ultimate in selfishness to wish that all will die when we do.  Sadly, some of are not content to wait for the last day to come, and so exit this life after taking the lives of others, an especially selfish act carried out by the miserable among us.

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