Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Impending disaster!

Chicken Little was a bit mixed up. I heard he went about shouting,"The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!" In the very good kids' series, "Peep and the Wide World", the little Peep gets hit in the head by a falling acorn and concludes that a geological/atmospheric disaster is upon him and his friends.  I imagine running about screaming will elicit a feeling of alarm in those around us more or less without it mattering what the text is.  Sometime, I may try acting alarm and trying to spread fear by shouting in some foreign language or using nonsense syllables.  I suspect that voice tone and body language would be sufficient.

Since we can't get into the future, it is a fine place for storing fears.  People can get all hung up on the notion of an impending disaster.  The book "When Prophecy Fails" (1956) tells what may be the best-known story of a predicted disaster that didn't happen but the link leads to a paper listing quite a few.  A course on the Bible and its influence told of an earlier time, 1833, when William Miller calculated or intuited or somehow realized that the big one, the "end of the world", was almost upon him.  He let his followers know and I guess they prepared in their way.  Many of them gave away their farms and properties, knowing they would not need them after the Second Coming, which Miller figured was due in 1843.  The year came and went but no one was whisked away or arose from the grave.  Reportedly, some of the group wanted their farms back.

"Apocalypsist" is a term used by some scholars to mean a person like Chicken Little or William Miller who is convinced of some very big event that is drawing near.  Very often the event is some sort of judgment day where we will all be called upon to pay for our misdeeds.  Sometimes, some of us are to be whisked away to a heavenly place.  The novel "The Leftovers" by Tom Perrotta tells about peoples' lives and feelings after many simultaneous disappearances worldwide.  Some of those left behind are puzzled and unhappy..  If the disappearances were indeed the Rapture, why were some known sinners disappeared and genuinely good persons like themselves left behind?

Many practitioners of Zen and the writer Eckhart Tolle agree with Matthew 6:34 "Take therefore no thought for the morrow."  Of course, that is not always best but then what is?  I can see I am going to want some milk in the morning so planning ahead for my groceries trip in an hour makes sense.  But of those things I cannot know, or have insufficient evidence for, I might as well not think.  I am especially wary of "big disasters", such as the end of the "world".  'World' is an odd word.  Bill's world includes no shepherds but yours might.  The world can mean my usual surrounds and contacts and it can mean the universe.  I did some of my professional work on "the future" and I noticed many predictions do not have a date.  So, I can't tell if they were wrong or not.  I like to spend most of my time in the NOW.

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