Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pining for the End Times...

Why do so many people seem to want the world to end?

End times theology.  Mayan Calendar predictions.   The meltdown of the world economic order.  Succession and Civil War!   People seem to love to fantasize about the world ending.  Why is this?

And you see it everywhere, in all walks of life.   Rednecks wearing Real-Tree Camo have bumper stickers on their cars saying  "A Country Boy Can Survive!" (which was also the name of a popular song from our last recession, in 1982).  The idea is, civilization is going to hell in a hand-basket, but black-powder rifle country boys will live on squirrel and deer and keep the race going.

The end-times people, who may overlap with the rednecks, are convinced that Jesus is coming back next week, and this time he is pissed!  (and by that, I don't mean drunk).   All the "True Christians" will fly up to heaven, and the world will turn to anarchy in short order.   The odd thing about this fantasy, is that much of the end-times literature, such as "left behind" is told from the point of view of people who are, well, left behind.   I thought you were all supposed to fly up in the air? (Which is why Real Christians always buy cars with sunroofs).

Mayan Calendar people, UFO nuts, apocalyptic crazies, and the like all have different scenarios, from massive floods, to climate change, mega-volcanos, meteor strikes, alien invasions, shifts in the Earth's crust, to well, whatever.  They make movies about these fantasies, and at the end, the hero and heroine survey the wreckage from a mountaintop and then restart civilization (the heroine is usually pregnant at this point).

Why do people indulge in these fantasies?   Are they just mindless escapism or are they harmful to your mental health?

The answer to the first is pretty straightforward.   Most folks who indulge in this crap are depressed people and as I noted before, depressed people are evil.   They struggle to get by in the world, because they make a lot of foolish choices in life.  They spend too much, they eat too much, they don't pay attention in school - or at work - and then they wonder why they can't be Billionaires overnight.  It is all so unfair!

So like a child overturning a Monopoly board when they land on your Hotels on Park Place, they secretly hope that it will all just go away and some other, horrific scenario take its place.   It is, in fact a death wish, a suicide attempt.   But instead of just wanting to do away with themselves, they want to take the whole planet with them.  If they can't win, well then nobody should.

It is stupid, it is infantile, it is sick, and it is ridiculous.  And yet at one time or another in our lives, we all secretly engage in this fantasy - that the end times are a-comin' and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket.

But is this harmful?  I think so, and let me tell you why.  While we all may engage in this fantasy briefly at one time in our lives, many folks are making the "end of the world" the centerpiece of their lives.

For example, a friend of mine returns from Bible Study at the local Presbyterian Church.   A lady there bends her ear for an hour about the Book of Revelations and how the end times are here and all the prophesied "signs" have come true.  The world will end in our lifetimes, she says to my friend.   I tell my friend to find a new Bible-Study group, one not quite so chock full of crazy.

But this is not an isolated incident.  Another friend is estranged from their son, as he has signed on to this end times fantasy as well.   He is convinced that the world will end in his lifetime, and nothing you can say will convince him otherwise.   So how does this affect his decisions in life?   He is raising children, which is scary.  "Hey honey, don't bother studying hard in school or anything, you'll be dead before you're 30 anyway!"

Not surprisingly, he is not very successful in his own life.  His career has been marked with one setback after another, and he frequently asks his parents for money - that is until he decided they were "sinners" and not worth talking to anymore (which coincidentally, happened right after they decided to stop sending him money - funny how that works).

It is easier and more comforting, ironically, to just give up on life and hope for the end of the world.   It is a human tendency - emotional thinking - just as sometimes it feels good to feel bad.   It is a human tendency, but that doesn't mean you should wallow in it.  Fight it.

The same part of the brain that makes you root for the end times is the same part that says, "Screw it all, let's become crack addicts instead!"   It is a self-destructive impulse that is unhealthy.