Saturday, October 3, 2009


The latest media driven catastrophe is swine flu. Some are saying it is a pandemic that will wipe out half the world. Others are calling it a conspiracy by politicians and drug companies to make money. I call this all too human, universal propensity to anticipate annihilation, the 'Archetype of the Apocalypse.' By that, I mean that there appears to be a universal element in the human psyche to anticipate and even thrive on the prospect of disaster.

Humans have always catastrophized. It seems to be in our nature. For Western mythology it begins in biblical Eden with Adam and Eve being told that if they ate from one particular tree they "would surely die!" They ate from the tree. They didn't die. Life changed, but no one died. That’s important to remember in these doom and gloom scenarios. Things change, but people rarely die.

Chicken Little continued the apocalyptic tradition by screaming to all who would listen that the entire heavenly canopy was going to crash onto the earth and kill everyone. Many listened. He gained quite a following until it was pointed out that he had only been hit on the head by a rogue apple. He didn’t die. But, like Adam and Eve before him, his life had changed.

From the second coming of Jesus, to Y2K, to global warming (or cooling), to meteors hitting the earth, to nuclear holocausts, to the Mayan 2012 calendar, to Catholic conspiracies, to drug company scams, to greedy politicians, to Free Masonic plots, to Jewish plots, to Islamic world domination -- and the list goes on and on and on. In fact someone has compiled a brief list from various times and cultures around the globe predicting various ends of the world:

While such external scenarios are never out of the question, and an actual 'end of the world' could occur due to human error or circumstances of Nature, most never have and never will. Of course, each person's pet apocalypse will be deemed to be "the one that IS true!"And you may be right, but probably not.

It seems to me that this internal predisposition to catastrophize is a wonderful and useful part of the human psyche. That part of us that anticipates and even thrives on judgment, destruction and ‘The End’ needs to be applied at a personal level in order for each of us to become a complete en-humaned being. You see, each of us is a walking apocalypse, a living end of the world. Each breath is the end of the old breath and the introduction of a whole new world of oxygen molecules. Each minute, hour and day is the end of life as we know it. When the head hits the dreaming pillow, the past day has been obliterated, the four horsemen have wiped the slate clean and a brand new world is coming. We cannot count on the fact that anything we possessed yesterday, mentally or physically, will be around when we awaken.

It has been said that the biblical book of Revelation is like a bad dream. That is a very helpful insight. Our night dreams and day anxieties are often filled with bizarre and troubling imagery and disastrous scenarios. A short peaceful car trip to the grocery store can end in thoughts of financial ruin or a life of miserable loneliness. The mind loves to construct end of our world scenarios. Let's face it, Time is a harsh Judge, passing sentence on each tick of the clock. The old is destroyed and buried. Frequently we imagine scenarios which are far worse than they actually become. Like the biblical book of Revelation, we experience days and sometimes sleepless nights filled with moments of tribulation or rapture. We await the Day of Judgment, the Lake of Fire, the Second Coming. There is some relief in knowing that this is the way the Psyche works.This is the way life works. But remember, every good apocalypse concludes with a new thing replacing the old, always.

Our lives are changing, always. What we thought we knew and had yesterday is going to shift, gradually or drastically. That is how life works. That is why babies grow and adults age. Such processes and events are what cause our souls to evolve and our unique characters to develop. Every change, each apocalypse, all fears and worries are purposeful and working toward the next new heaven and new earth. So take a load off – relax your shoulders and calm your thoughts. Shift the focus from 'the end of the world' and 'paranoid conspiracies' to your own life of ongoing change. God is making something new in each moment. Faith in the purposeful process turns catastrophes into what J.R.R. Tolkien called 'eucatastrophes' (ostensibly bad situations suddenly revealed to be fortuitous).

The Hebrew God, through his prophet Isaiah nearly 2,700 years ago said it like this:

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.

Pay attention! I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; can you not see it?
I am making a road through the wasteland
and streams in the desert."

~ Isaiah 43:18-19

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