It has begun – "it" being the end of the world. Of people, time, cluttered closets, the IRS, the fiscal cliff, final exams, leftover Thanksgiving turkey. The end of everything.
We won't even need Obamacare.
Some interpretations of an old Mayan calendar seem to predict the finale of something or other on December 21. Is it a "baktun"-cycle that terminates, or the whole world?
Hysterics everywhere are going with the latter. One man in China has built himself an ark, a big boat on which he hopes to ride out the end. Another Chinese craftsman's ark is actually a 13-foot steel sphere in which he will survive the end whether by land or sea safe as a pit in a big round olive.
Some anxious folk are trekking to the French Pyrenees, where a UFO is parked up in the mountains waiting to waft the wise into safe space. Unless, of course, they collide with planet Niburu, which others believe will zip out of its concealment on the backside of the sun and crash into earth. Then again the alien lifeboat could get caught in the gullet of that huge black hole some Mayan calendar buffs predict will swallow us all.
Meanwhile, New Agers and other spiritists are booking hotel rooms near Chichen Itza, the Mexican site of Mayan ruins. I've been there, and fascinating as it is, between the air-sucking heat, nosy iguanas, and squadrons of flying pests I wished for the end too.
It's not all bad, however. Yoga enthusiasts are fluffing up their mats and getting ready to join a global mind-meld to launch a new age. One hopes it will be better than the "Age of Aquarius" we stepped into in the 1970s, as proclaimed in the popular musical, "Hair."
At least the end of the world means there will be no possibility for the return of leisure suits.
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Maya scholar Geoffrey Braswell says the folderol about the Mayan calendar "tells us more about ourselves, particularly in the Western world, than it does about the ancient Maya."
He's right. The craziness shows at least three things. First, the way people view the "end" reveals much about their personal worldview. The fearful see the end of the world as cataclysm. Their angst is over termination, hence the terminal hysteria. Cynics scorn them as disaster-mongers. Skeptics are withholding judgment until December 22, and, if they are still here, will declare their opinion then.
Second, the current craziness shows that when there is no coherent and credible belief system, confusion and wackiness abound. Squirrels take the shortest route to the nut. If it seems this way, they dart off here. If it appears the crunchy is in that direction, they quickly shift that way. There's a lot of squirrely darting around with regard to the Mayan calendar.
Third, the Mayan tempest reveals the extent to which many in the West have abandoned the Bible and its revelation. There they might find the coherence and stability that provide peace, and even joyful anticipation of the "end."
However, even among Christians and others who look to the Bible for their understanding of the future and end of the world, there's a lot of wackiness. The key to unlocking the biblical end-game is found in the Greek words inspired in the New Testament, and their Hebrew counterparts in the Old.
In biblical Greek, "end" does not refer to "termination" so much as "telos," the arrival at purpose. (Matthew 24:14) However, reaching the goal of history doesn't come through a global mind-meld, but through the "Parousia," the arrival of the "summation of all things," like the resolution of a chord that brings the whole composition into symphonic wholeness. (Ephesians 1:10) "Apokatastasis panton" is another Greek term, meaning a restoration of all things to their original mint condition. (Acts 3:21) "Palin genesia" is a restart, a new beginning. (Matthew 19:28)
Put it all together, and the "end" doesn't ignite terminal hysteria, but the "blessed hope," as Paul writes in Titus 2:13. History is moving toward an encounter with Christ, and restoration of the pristine purity of a world under the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and Spirit-given joy. (Romans 14:17)
The only people who need to quake are those not registered as citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Revelation 13:8) However, the Bible sounds a positive note even for those not "ready" for the end. History is not winding down, but winding up, and this era of the great "wind-up" is the "day of opportunity" for people to gain their heavenly citizenship through Christ. (2 Corinthians 6:2)
So, with respect to the end of the world, we are faced with terminal hysteria, skeptical scorn, cynical indifference, or blessed hope.
I think I will go with blessed hope.