Welcome to Doomsday.
Back in the 1990’s one of my most popular and often requested lectures was on the topic of Doomsday or “End of the World” scenarios. Obviously, as we inched closer to the year 2000 anxiety was running high. The political and social climate was also a perfect storm for collective nail-biting. Just to bring everyone back to the past, and therefore up to speed on what was happening, allow me to mention The first Gulf War, Koševo, The Rwandan genocide, the LA riots, Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 and Heaven’s Gate, the first World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Chechen wars, Clinton’s impeachment, the world’s first cloned mammal, the OJ Simpson trial, the rise of the internet and, the deaths of Princess Diana. JFK Jr., Jonbenet Ramsey, Matthew Shepard and of course Y2K itself.
The masses were noticeably worried and things seemed mostly fucked.
Of course, people wanted to hear about how the world might end or at least possible “end times” situations and as a researcher I had file cabinets spilling over with old, failed doomsday predictions. So, I filled up my weekends traveling to libraries across the country giving what became, at the time, one of my most popular and well-attended lectures.
One of the topics I discussed to a great degree with the attendees was the fact that everyone in the room had already survived hundreds, if not thousands, of doomsday predictions.
I started with ancient texts, spun into the Biblical Armageddon, wolves ate the moon as I jumped into Nostradamus then floated into Mayan and Hopi beliefs. Explained that societies and cultures had been born, flourished and were exterminated or had extinguished themselves which, for those people, was literally the end of their time. The people at my lectures would become increasingly nervous as my topics became more timely. The People’s Temple/Jonestown, Church Universal and Triumphant and as the 1990s rolled on Heaven’s Gate and the Solar Temple mass suicides.
Believe it or not at the end of my lectures people left feeling, hopefully, a little better about their chances of not dying in a man-made or supernatural fire-filled, earth-cracking maelstrom.
The word “doom” stems from the Old English “dom” meaning “judgment” or “justice” hence “Doomsday” is what many believe to be “Judgement Day”. The day on which you will be judged for your actions. I’ll get back to this later.
The most seemingly plausible, and therefore unspectacular scenario is that we will not be surrounded by angels or flying saucers all together in one moment. The end of the world, for the majority of people who have lived and died on this planet, did not end while hearing a blast from Gabriel or Heimdall’s horn or seeing the sun turn black while the Midgard serpent cracked the world in half. Witnessing the end of everything holds a certain amount of excitement and even more so it gives to our lives a certain amount of meaning.
Now, decades later I look around and see the nervousness and anxiety I witnessed back then. I can only hope that the words which ended those lectures so long ago will help to quell some unfounded fears, and so I present to you, the reader, those words I spoke so long ago…
People secretly love doomsday.
People have a hidden desire for the end of everything.
People have these secret hidden thoughts, not for a wanting of the “end of everything” but because it gives meaning to what can often seem meaningless.
If everyone dies all at once there will be nothing to miss, no one will ache for our passing because we will all be gone.
Doomsday can psychologically be understood as containing some amount of comfort. No funerals, no mourning, no family, or friends left alone. If we all go together it can make spectacular the terrifying. Death which can often seem, and perhaps maybe, pointless in our logic, takes on strange meaning when in the “final moments” you known you were there when it all ended. This idea whether recognized or not can shape us in ways that we may not even truly understand.
The reality is that 150,000 people on average die every day. Each moment is a possible personal doomsday.
The lesson can be this.
Every moment is precious and knowing so allows you to treat everyone as though this moment will be the last time you see them. Whether you believe in an afterlife, or not, living your life in such a manner leaves no space for doom. Your actions, your caring, your understanding makes judgment unnecessary.
Kindness is the “Doomsday” of doom.