Columns » Bob Lancaster

End of the road



One of you readers sent in a question that's beyond my ken, so I passed it along to the sage Assmunch, who's always game for queries, however difficult, unless it's a put-up job by one of these tea-bagger phonys. Those people don't want answers; they just want to get on TV. That's why they'll bring in a gun, or do whatever it takes. Anyway, here's Assmunch's take on the subject.

Do I think the world's going to end in 2012? Probably not, but just in case, I've been trying to put my affairs in order, which, if you know me, is  no small undertaking. I've redone my will, put on some vinyl siding, and – how's this for an act of faith? -- put in four rows of strawberries of a variety that aren't due to fruit until a year after the scheduled apocalypse.

I've been trying to exercise and eat right and have regular checkups to head off diseases that themselves have only three years left if the Twelvers ciphered as good as Jethro. In short, I've been tying up loose ends, so that when the time comes I can cross over into campground without the nagging sense of having left some essential thing undone. I don't know why that's important to me, but it is. I know that in a flash all will be rubble, but you have to live with yourself up to the moment the flash occurs, and that requires the peace of mind that comes from having cleaned the gutters and fixed all the faucet leaks.

Why is it again that they picked 2012? Something mysterious in the Mayan calendar … a doomsday prequel with scary special effects, coming to a theater near you  … more cryptic jabber from the old gasbag Nostradamus,   the Jack Van Impe of his time, if you follow the televangelical specialists, and not just because both of them found their niche in prophesy only after early career washouts as accordion players.

But I suppose the year doesn't really matter, as most of us have lived our entire lives in the valley of the shadow. All the Orwellian years leading up to 1984, for example. All the years creeped out by 2001, when the red-eyed friends of H.A.L. would be taking over. Jitters over  Y2K and the approach of the Millennium Bug, supplanted now, I understand, by what the computer whizzes are calling the 2038 Problem.

For the Grannis end-timers, the climactic year was the Bicentennial if memory serves. My own watershed year was 1962, the night during the Cuban Missile Crisis when we all stood out on the dormitory portico waiting and watching for the nuclear fish to come swarming up over the southeastern horizon, fully expecting them to, and calmly resigned to our fate as eared cinders. Another year was lost to the alarums of one Immanuel Velikovsky, and I used to trip along toward Armageddon with Garner Ted, usually waking up in a cold sweat. Huddled under our classroom desks against the mushroom, we knew only one year, really -- the concurrent one, always with the hair trigger, too tenuous to be carrying a future. 

It's curious that creatures with such dinky lifespans would assume a comparably short-lived wide world. But that's what we thought. The Creation had had a good long run –  6,000 years --  and was bound to expire anon from sheer decrepitude. Wasn't entropy one of Newton's laws? I came from people who for centuries had known with dead-solid certainty how the world would end -- with a trump and a shout, with the sky peeling back in azure folds and the King of Glory on a gold throne descending in an opalescent spiral cacophony of angels, saints and patriarchs, come to separate the saved from the damned, the sheep from the goats. There was no doubting that this would happen literally and soon, and that all flesh would see it together. The only question was when.

I've wondered at times here in superannuation how hard it must have been for those who held this belief – or still hold it --  to get up every morning and go on to work. They sang – and still do – “work, for the night is coming,” but if that's the case, why bother? Why worry about tomorrow if there's not going to be one? The true believers at Mena divined this pointlessness and on D-Day eve gave away all their possessions, even their shoes. Sheep or goat, they knew they'd not be needing shoes.

I have to say too that I've long suspected that this Second Coming surprise extravaganza might have been devised and perpetuated at least in part as a way to scare youngsters out of mischief. That is, if you know the Last Judgment's liable to commence about two seconds from the beginning of the misdemeanor you're now contemplating the commission of – flogging an old bishop, say, or something of that nature – then the prospect might inspire or terrify you into hauling your young ass up. If that's indeed the plan and the hope, then I'd venture the results through the ages have been mixed. The Devil losing a few, winning perhaps more.


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