I’ve noticed that the older I get the smarter I get. But it’s equally true that I’m simultaneously getting a lot dumber.
These days I’m smarter at seeing through the noise and calamity of the distractions that aren’t doing any of us (including me) any good.
But I’m dumber when it comes to recognizing where it will all end. To be honest, right now I’m not very optimistic there’s a way out of our collective downward spiral.
But if history teaches us anything, it is that there is always a way out. It may not be pretty—the story of the human race rarely is—but it’s there.
In other words, rumors of the impending end of world may be somewhat exaggerated.
The other day I spent a few minutes looking up dozens of past predictions of the end of the world, which from this point forward I will refer to as the EOTW to save space. EOTW predictions have been around for about as long as we’ve had a world.
Many proclaimers go so far as setting the date. The fact that you and I are reading this is proof that the track record of such predictions is a resounding zero percent.
But setting aside the silliness of the date-setters, there have been times in history when plagues and endless warfare would have made it easy at the time to think that the jig was up, and that the world was going down.
In more modern times, WWII certainly gave EOTW’ers reason to ponder. But if the depravity and horror of WWII wasn’t enough to trigger the EOTW, then we probably don’t have much to worry about.
The only time since WWII that strikes me as having been potentially EOTW-inducing was the late 60’s, when we had the remarkable intersection of the threat of nuclear war, widespread race riots, violent anti-war protests, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, and a rapidly shifting social structure described by kids as the Age of Aquarius, and the oldsters as Hell in a Handbasket.
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Well, we made it through WWII—limping, but we made it. We made it through the 60’s—limping, but we made it.
And now we have the shocking rise of tribal nationalism, the scourge of pornography, the internet echo chamber, mass shootings, new types of chemical and biological weapons available for internet purchase, a growing minority willing to dismiss medical science as a hoax, the gradual collapse of the middle class, the national debt explosion, and the stunning denial of climate change.
It’s bad out there. You know it, and I know it. And I know many who think that now, for real, finally, the world is ripening for the big one—the EOTW.
And, to be honest, it’s hard for me to look at this giant confluence of crud and disagree with them.
But my point is this: don’t believe me. The older you get the more you indulge in tsk-tsking. We humans have been through tough, hard, miserable times before. And each time there are those busy proclaiming the EOTW. But somehow, we muddle through. We bury our dead, pick up the pieces of what’s left, and keep living.
It seems to me that religion is both helpful and unhelpful in this discussion.
Christian scriptures encourage believers to watch for the “signs of the times,” while simultaneously promising us that we won’t know when it’s the EOTW until it’s the EOTW. Confusing? Maybe a little.
Meanwhile, generations come and go, and I suppose it’s the job of the oldsters like me to point out problems, but it’s up the youngsters like you to find the solutions we old guys can no longer see. But solutions exist. They always exist. And just because I can’t figure them out doesn’t mean you can’t.
So when I get pessimistic, don’t listen to me. Pessimism is easy. Stockpiling your arsenal is easy. Solving problems is hard. But you’ll figure it out. It won’t be much fun, and I don’t know how you’ll do it, but you will.
Because throughout history, you always have.