Friday, December 21, 2012

Hoping for the End of the World

Artistic depiction of what didn't happen today.
If you have a Facebook account and you've checked it today, you will have discovered two things:  the world was supposed to end today, and people are somewhat disappointed it didn't.  While this disappointment might be our sarcastic, sophisticated 21st century way of mocking a primitive 16th century prediction, there is some peculiarity with how fascinated we are with the end of the world.  Whether it cometh in fire, in water, in zombie plague, in earthquake, in nuclear annihilation, in financial collapse, or in alien invasion, we are fascinated by a topic which should absolutely terrify us:  our own demise.  Our hearts are shattered when we hear of a shooting in a school or a mall, but we are absolutely fascinated, perhaps even thrilled, by the prospect of the collapse of human civilization.  Why?

We want the world to end, not because we crave the death of our neighbors, or because we want to watch the world burn necessarily, but because the destruction of the world is so very very real.  Humans build things of every shape and sort.  We build structures and institutions, we build cultures and civilizations, we build ideologies and philosophies, all for what?  Humans are the only species that, when faced with adversity in nature, do not adapt, but adapt nature, even to the extent of absolutely eliminating the natural setting completely in some cases.  We're a creative species, but somewhere deep within we know it does not last.  We look back on our history as a species and see decrepit ruins, temples which have crumbled and palaces which are no more than excavation sites, and we realize a very cold and real fact:  None of it lasts.  The reality of our creations is the same as the reality of their creators, that all of it will inevitably fall some day.  New York City, like ancient Rome or Greece, will be ruins, and everyone who ever built her will someday be dead.  It may not be the most pleasant of thoughts, but its certainly real.

We go about day to day living in our created world.  We drink coffee in a Starbucks, both of which are human creations.  We drive cars on highways, also both created.  We work in jobs making money (created things, both of them), we struggle to receives wealth and power (both ideas we invented).  Everywhere we turn, we see a world crafted entirely of human hands, and a creeping worm of an idea in the back of our mind reminds us that, like the hands which created it, this world will not last.  It may be "real" now, but will not always be so.

Generally speaking, we like living in our cozy, man-made world.  Its comfortable, its convenient, its suited to our flavors and preferences.  However, its not real.  Every Starbucks is no more subsiding and eternal than the people who build it, every ideology no more sustainable than those who hold it.  We're comfortable in the created world, but we hunger for a world that is real, one indifferent to human creations and their temporal nature, a world that is honest and brutal and lasting.  We wouldn't enjoy the suffering and death of billions, but we do crave the chance to stare reality, timeless and eternal, in the face.  We want eternity because eternity is real.  With great irony, we want the death of everything because we want to live forever.  Rather than dwell in our own illusion, we want to be stripped of our weak creations, we want to watch our skyscrapers tumble and our false ideologies fall, and see what about us and about the world is really real.

So don't feel guilty when your apocalyptic hopes are dashed and you feel disappointed, for its a craving for truth you feel.  This same desire that makes us crave the thrilling reality of zombie doom is the desire that drives to pursue the truth, to hunger for heaven, and to seek the coming of the Son of God, wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger, this Christmas season.  We crave God, because more than anything or ever could be, God is real.  Our creations will fall, and those who created them will fall, but He who created us will never fall, and when all that is false has fallen, all that will be left is us and Him, and how very real an experience that will be.

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