I reckon the world as we know it will be ending shortly. I’ve felt this for some time now. I think it started back when I was a kid, but I first got a solid sense of it in 1988, when I was 23. What am I talking about here? The World War III notion that’s been kicking around since the 1950s? Not really, no. The biblical Apocalypse/Armageddon idea that was supposed to happen in the year 2000? Perhaps, but not exactly. How about the ecological meltdown that the environmentalists have been warning us is due any day? Entirely possible, but I’m not sure. In fact, I really have no solid sense of the actual nature of this event. I just know it’s coming. Furthermore, I think I know when it’s coming. Sometime around 2012. I know I’m not the only person in the world to believe that – there’s an entire sub-culture of people out there that have a thing about 2012. I’m not really one of them. As I said, I’ve felt like this since at least the 80s, probably the 70s. There was no such sub-culture around back then, nor do I exchange ideas with such people. This is just me. It started with my dreams. I’m not the sort of person that has recurring patterns in my dreams, with one significant exception. I’ve had at least 30 dreams in my life about the end of the world, starting from when I was a young lad. The world never ends the same way (which is probably why I can’t get a sense of the nature of the event), but one thing is always consistent – in my dream I know a way out. Somehow I have some information with which I can escape the impending disaster. I can even take people with me – my loved ones. In my dreams this makes me some sort of leader of men – “the guy that knows the way out”. For this reason I’ve never had any sort of fear surrounding this disaster (if “disaster” is the right word). My feelings around the notion are that somehow I’ll be okay. I know that in my gut. Whatever happens, I’ll have some sort of knowledge that will allow me to escape the doom of most of the people around me. When I went to New York in 1988, I got off the plane, checked into a hostel, and went for a wander around Times Square. I was amazed at the energyof the place, the bustle and life in the city. Then, out of nowhere, the words came into my head, “25 years. It won’t last for more than 25 years.” I was quite taken aback by this feeling, this sense, but I trusted it and never forgot it. 25 years after 1988 is, of course, 2013. I didn’t really think like that at the time, but later I began to. Over the next few years, I started looking more closely at society – Western society, that is – and noticed a couple of things:
- We are living unsustainably. One day I realised what all thinking people eventually realise if they contemplate our society long enough – that it’s entirely unsustainable. We’re consuming the natural resources that we need to live, at a rate that can’t be maintained for much longer. I’m not saying anything new here. We all know this, so I won’t go on about it too much – except to offer this analogy that I quite like: Picture a train, barreling down a track. Just over the horizon is a big canyon or river, and the bridge – the railway bridge across the river – is down (perhaps dismantled to be used as fuel for the train). The train is not just hurtling down the track – it’s accelerating. There are a few people on board who know about the missing bridge, and some of them are actively trying to slow down the train in whatever way they can. Some are even talking to the driver, trying to convince him to slow down. But there’s not enough of them, and the train continues to accelerate. More people are becoming aware of the problem every day, but the train is now going so fast, and the broken bridge is so close, that even if every person on the train (including the driver) wanted to stop the train, they wouldn’t be able to. The train is the human race – or at least Western society.
- Our society is extremely delicate. There are a whole range of ways that our society could, quite literally, collapse in on itself. The factors could be:
- Financial: The merest fluctuations in the perceptions of the investors in the stock markets of the world can have significant effects on the market – it would be all too easy for another great depression to happen again. But the disaster I’m talking about would be a couple of orders of magnitude greater than a great depression.
- Social: How long do you suppose it’s going to be until the “have-nots” of the world decide that the “haves” of the world should be obliged to do a little sharing?
- Technological: I can imagine one single technological invention that could disrupt the entire socio-economic fabric of our lives. Western society literally wouldn’t survive its invention. I’m talking about instantaneous travel. Walk through a door and be somewhere else in the world (you know, “Beam me up, Scottie,” and all that). There are probably several other inventions that could have an equally profound effect – this is just one. At this point, I’m fairly sure that most of you reading this don’t believe me, that you haven’t thought about it long enough to see the ramifications if such an invention were let loose on the world. I’m not going to try to convince you, but try this for starters: 25% of the world’s industry is devoted to transportation. Do you think it’s possible to maintain the status quo when 25% of the world’s industry becomes redundant overnight? How about this: With an invention like that, there would be no more need for people to live in cities, and the notion of a “country” would disappear in a few years. I’ll say no more on the subject…
- Scientific/Philosophical/Spiritual: Surely it’s got to happen someday – someone will discover a scientific, philosophical or spiritual truth so profound that it will shake mankind to his foundations.
As I began to realise all of this, I started to think more and more about the dreams I’d had throughout my life, and about the feelings I got in Times Square that day. It was around that time I discovered the ancient Mayans and their calendar. Amazing race, the Mayans. Especially their astronomy. Apparently they were so good at reading the universe that they could predict certain astronomical events (such as eclipses) with an accuracy that modern science only caught up with around 1940. Now the Mayans didn’t measure the passing of time the same way we did, meaning that they didn’t use words like “decade”, “century” or “millennium”. These measurements are based on powers of 10: 1 decade = 10 years, 1 century = 10×10 years, 1 millennium = 10x10x10 years, which is all fairly arbitrary when you think about it – denoting major milestones in time according to how many fingers we have on our hands… The Mayans did it differently. Their measurements were less connected to our bodies and more connected to the actual events in the skies (just like our days, months and years are). Their largest unit of measurement of time was called the “Great Cycle”, which lasted 5,130 years. The end of one Great Cycle and the beginning of a new one signified to the Mayans a period of great change in the world. The Great Cycle that we’re currently in actually ends quite soon – on December 21st, 2012, to be precise. When I learned that, it gave me pause for thought. Now I’m not a great believer in the cosmic significance of arbitrary calendar dates (remember the anti-climax of the year 2000? No apocalypse in sight!), but that date resonated so strongly with my own feelings that I couldn’t dismiss it out of hand. In 1999 I discovered the prophecies of an old Apache wise-man called Stalking Wolf (or Grandfather) as he was known to his loved ones. Grandfather had made 106 prophecies, and 99 have come true (so far). Of these, four concerned the destruction of man, and the first three had already come true. The final one would begin on “The night of the red skies”, when “the stars would bleed”. After that night, there would be exactly “four seasons” (one year) until the end. When the end came, only those people that had already returned to the land and were living as “Children of the Earth” would survive. Grandfather did not say when this “night of the red skies” would occur, but if the timeframe of the previous prophecies is any guide, it will be soon (the next few years). I’m not one to believe in prophecies, but I’m not one to disbelieve them either. I believe that certain people have the gift of prophecy – the trick is knowing who those people are and being able to distinguish them from the people who want you to believe they have the gift (or their followers). Anyway, that was enough for me. Dreams, New York, the Mayans and finally Grandfather’s prophecies. They all ganged up on me and I’m now a believer. Perhaps I should don a sandwich board that reads “The End is Nigh!” and walk up and down High Street tolling a bell and scaring little children. Or perhaps I should just write something on a website… So how do I think it’s going to happen? What will be the nature of this “change”? Well, that’s a tricky one. It would seem that whatever it is, it has to be something that’s significant for the entire species, not just Western society. If the United States suffered a catastrophic financial meltdown, it would certainly take many countries of the developed (and developing) world down with it, like Australia, Japan, Israel and any other country that relies upon the States for it’s economic livelihood. But there are a whole host of countries that would continue largely unaffected – China, India, most of Africa and South America – even Europe. My sense of this thing – this “change” – is that it has to be something truly significant, something that’s never happened before in the recent history (last 5,000 years) of the planet. So the collapse of one little empire doesn’t cut it. The only things I can think of – things that would affect mankind and the planet as a whole – are:
- Ecological disaster – which seems increasingly likely, when you think about it. Ozone layer, global warming, deforestation, melting ice caps, pollution, etc etc – it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
- Nuclear holocaust. That certainly fits the bill, but I can’t see it happening.
- Biological disaster – some sort of plague (man-made or just man-induced) that decimates 90% of the population
- Alien invasion. Hey, it’s a possibility…
- Or that technological/philosophical/spiritual revolution that I spoke of earlier. Think of it as some sort of cultural shift that lifts us up to the next level of our evolution.
Which will it be? Probably something so left-field I can’t even imagine it. I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Sophie the other day. Sophie is an environmentalist. And by that I don’t mean a tree-hugging greenie, but a professional who works with organisations to affect change for the benefit of the environment. I admire her work, but I can’t help but feel that it’s all a little futile. That train continues to accelerate, after all. I consider myself as environmentally conscious as the next person, but I personally believe that it’s all “too little too late”. The rampant consumerism of Western society is growing much faster then the environmentalists’ effectiveness. I told Sophie this (I do that), and she wasn’t too impressed with my viewpoint. Fair enough, I guess. No-one likes being told that their wonderfully generous life’s work is futile. She was even less impressed when I told her this next bit: I actually want this to happen. This goes beyond not being afraid of it happening – I almost can’t wait. I don’t really care what form this ending takes – ecological or otherwise – I want it to happen, and I want it to happen in my lifetime. The way we live today is a great sadness to me. I’ll be even sadder if I wake up one day twenty years from now and it’s all still the same: Unadulterated consumerism, blood being spilled on my TV by people claiming their god is better than someone else’s god, insurance companies getting rich off our fear, nothing to live for but the prospect of having more stuff, etc, etc. We all wonder what is the meaning of Life. Hardly surprising. I simply wonder what is the meaning of that life. So I’m looking forward to this “change”. If it happens to be an ecological meltdown and six billion people die – well, so be it. If I’m one of them, and so is everyone I love, then that’s okay too. Naturally I’ll try to avoid that part (my dreams tell me I’ll even succeed), but if it happens, it happens. Would that be a bad thing? No, I’m not a sociopath. I just don’t see 90% of the human race dying as a bad thing. I don’t see it as a good thing either. It’s just – the natural way of things. Assume for a moment that our end is an ecological one. In other words, mankind has fouled up the natural balance of the planet so severely that he makes it uninhabitable for himself. The Earth’s ecosystems, after centuries of stress, finally break down and “kill” the species that caused the breakdown. This is bad? Imagine a maniac walking down your street shooting a gun randomly around him as he walks, simply because he likes the sound of gunfire. He’s killing someone every few minutes, occasionally the neighbourhood children. Then, accidentally, one of his bullets ricochets back off a lamppost and kills him. Who amongst us wouldn’t secretly think, “Thank God for that!” even if we publicly proclaimed his death as a tragedy. Look at the big picture for a moment – the really big picture. The planet spawns a species that is so rampantly successful that it starts to eliminate thousands of other species. It’s so stupid that it doesn’t see the inherent problem in this, and continues doing it until it eventually eliminates itself. Balance is restored, and the planet lives happily ever after (until the next one). Interestingly, the balance was never upset in the first place. Mankind may well be a cancer on the planet (as a lot of people believe), but cancers exist for a reason…. Let’s go to an absolute worst case scenario. We send up every nuke we own in an orgy of destruction, and decimate all life on the planet. There’s not a single living thing left on the surface of the planet. It takes 10 million years before Life gets going again. (Actually, I very much doubt it would take that long, what with the oceans being full of life, and oceans being extremely difficult things to kill.) But what’s 10 million years in the life of a planet? The merest blip! It’s a couple of days in bed with a fever. Are we really so arrogant that we think we can destroy an entire planet? Maybe one day we can, but that day’s not today, certainly not with simple over-consumption and toxic waste. Anyway, I don’t think it will be anywhere near that bad. In fact, I don’t think it will be too bad at all. Most people find change difficult, so a Really Big Change will be really difficult (for some). But “difficult” doesn’t mean “bad” (ask any mother who’s just given birth). Surely if we’re moving to the next phase of our evolution (even if it’s forced upon us by an ecological disaster) then it can only be a “good” thing. To summarise, I don’t know what “it” is, but I want it to happen, I feel pretty sure it’s going to happen, and I think I’m going to survive it. Comments? Thoughts?