Saturday, December 29, 2012

Armageddon Outta Here! How to Make Every Day Your Personal Doomsday

If you're reading this, as one blogger put it, you know the world didn't end on December 21, 2012, despite claims that a medieval Mayan calendar predicted it. But you may not know that a Mayan temple had a small apocalypse of its own during the abortive Doomsday, thanks to some of the tourists who streamed into Guatemala for “end of the world” parties. They ignored rules and climbed the stairs of Temple II, doing unspecified “irreparable” damage, a technical adviser to the site told the media.

Elsewhere, Argentina closed off access to sacred Mount Uritorco after a Facebook-posted appeal for doomsday believers to climb the mountain and commit “mass spiritual suicide,” Agence France Presse reported.

Error has been the one common thread running through millenialist movements that have broken out in just about every generation. In our culture, many of them have revolved around the Christian Second Coming of Christ. Part of the reason is mostly vague Bible prophecies which have been ingeniously interpreted to fit each generation's situation.

Even Christ himself is allegedly ambiguously quoted about when and how the Second Coming should take place. In the Gospel of Mark's Chapter 13, in the opinion of some, he is quoted as saying that the end time would be a physical doomsday and would come in the life time of his contemporary followers. Indeed, the earliest Christians assumed Christ would be back in their lifetimes. This was one of the reasons for the lag time between Christ's crucifixion in the 30s A.D. and the circulation of the first Christian writings a generation later.

On the other hand, the Gospel of Luke, others claim, quotes Christ in one place as instructing the Pharisees that the Second Coming would be symbolic, not literal and physical – that is, an inner, spiritual revolution of higher consciousness, not a concrete Armageddon. “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen,”  Jesus said. “No one will say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is;' Because the Kingdom of God is within you.”

Since Christ's day, there have been countless passionate but failed end-of-the-world movements:

In 988, The Christian world supposedly took it as a terrible omen when a wolf entered the cathedral at Orleans, France, and seized a bell rope in its mouth to supposedly ring out the death toll of the world as the first millennium wound down. Thousands of psalm-singing pilgrims made for the Holy Land in preparation for the end in 999.

In 1179, the astrologer John of Toledo said the end would come in 1186 when all the then-known planets gathered in the constellation Libra. There was an uproar all over Eurasia. The Byzantine emperor ordered his palace windows shuttered.

In 1524, more than 20,000 Londoners fled their city for higher elevations after astrologers predicted that doomsday would begin on Feb. 1 with a flood of London.

One of the strangest apocalyptic movements centered around Sabbatai Zevi, a Jew who convinced thousands of his fellow Jews in the Mediterranean world that the end was coming in 1666 and that he was their Messiah. Commerce slowed as Jewish merchants lost interest in trade. Zevi led a band of followers in a march on the capital of the Turkish Empire to begin his apocalyptic rule. But instead, Zevi was arrested by the Turks. The shrewd, ruling sultan was careful to spare Zevi and deny him any martyrdom. Instead, the sultan ingeniously managed to convert Zevi to Islam, and Zevi's movement fizzled out.

In the early 1800s, after poring over the Bible, New York's William Miller, a stammering self-taught Protestant, became convinced that Doomsday was coming sometime around 1843. A spectacular meteor shower in 1833 helped his cause along. Miller eventually pegged Oct. 22, 1844 as a doomsday date. Millerites, some in white robes, waited by the thousands on New England hilltops to be lifted to heaven. One man, wearing turkey wings, tried to fly from a tree but fell and broke an arm.

On that exciting day, a Millerite spotted an unflustered Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great philosopher, and a companion of Emerson's taking a casual stroll. Asked by the Millerite if they knew the end was coming, Emerson's companion noted: “It doesn't much concern me. I live in Boston.” Emerson chimed in: “The end of the world doesn't bother me. I can get along without it.” The Millerites wept when nothing happened, and called it “The Disappointment.”

Just a couple of generations ago, Indian astrologers proclaimed that a particular conjunction of eight planets in the sky spelled doom for the earth on Feb. 2, 1962. Millions prayed. In one rite, more than a ton of butter and thousands of flowers were sacrificed. 250 priests started a relay to repeat Hindu liturgy 4.8 million times.

But I'd say author Og Mandino had a better idea for handling Doomsday than donning turkey wings or marching on Istanbul:

"Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools. Forget yesterday's defeats and ignore the problems of tomorrow. This is it. Doomsday. All you have. Make it the best day of your year. The saddest words you can ever utter are, "If I had my life to live over again." Take the baton now. Run with it! This is your day! Beginning today, treat everyone you meet, friend or foe, loved one or stranger, as if they were going to be dead at midnight. Extend to each person, no matter how trivial the contact, all the care and kindness and understanding and love that you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again."

A good formula for a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dave Schrader and Tim Dennis were energetic radio hosts who stirred up quite a Christmas season discussion with me Dec. 11 on the subject of angels on Minneapolis-St. Paul's news-talk station KTCN-AM. The near-death experience, the angel as a being of light, departed loved ones looking after us, meaningful coincidences, and a host of others topics were touched on -- interspersed by a series of interesting callers. Follow the links below to hear the first and second hours of the show.

Angels in Our Life, Part 1

Angelology, Part 2