Apocalypse How?

By Will Baker

Millennial madness is gaining momentum. History shows us that folks sometimes act quite strangely at the turn of the century, and at other times as well. It is a curious fact that at times such as these, folks often look for signs and portents that the world is coming to an end. For instance, here in Vermont, between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, William Miller, an early Adventist, and his followers looked for the coming of the end of the world. The failure of this prediction was called the First Disappointment, and many left the movement. Following this, a second date-Oct. 22, 1844-was set, and many of the remaining Adventists disposed of their property in anticipation of the event. Mr. Miller and his followers dressed themselves in white and ascended a mountain to await the end of the world. They were quite convinced that amidst all of the ensuing tumult they would be swept up, ascending to heaven as the world came to an end all about them. The movement was widely ridiculed after the day passed uneventfully. Thereafter many Adventists lost faith and returned to their former churches. But what do the follies of the Millerites have to do with Y2K?

Perhaps the value of the story, as it relates to Y2K, is that it can be considered a cautionary tale. The various end-time predictions as foretold in the bible or by folks such as Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce and others have some specific things in common with each other. Most of them detail a period of great unrest, natural disasters and strife, followed by an apocalypse of some sort. Their point of divergence is that, while the prophesy, as told in the bible and by folks like Edgar Cayce, indicates that the apocalypse will come about as a result of the fulfillment of "God’s plan," the other examples are simply exercises in the foretelling of the future.

With the advent of the nuclear age, humankind does in fact possess the means to destroy most life on this planet. In addition, the natural science record suggests that from time to time, the convergence of natural events has created cataclysmic moments such as that which resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. And then we have ourselves to contend with. Some folks make compelling arguments that the manner in which we humans have organized ourselves to do business shall spell our doom. Two examples come immediately to mind: the belief that we are poisoning the environment and the so called Y2K computer bug.

So it appears that a plethora of circumstances exist whereby we might meet our doom, whether it be by God’s own hand, the vagaries of nature, or some effect caused by our own actions. So where does that leave us? For my part, although I do believe in God, I can not grasp a Creator that has a plan. The very idea that I am living my life in fulfillment of some preordained strategy simply does not resonate with me. It seems to me that, were this true, it would somehow lessen the value of what we see going on all about us. Therefore, the notion that God intends to destroy the world, to my mind, seems utterly false. I have similar feelings regarding the perceived ability of some folks, both past and present, to foretell the future. Although our experiences are rife with anecdotal evidence suggesting that this may be a possibility, we have no real proof. However I have an open mind, therefore I would certainly consider such evidence were it presented to me. Acts of nature, on the other hand, are a different matter. The dinosaurs once walked the earth. The fossil record demonstrates that this is fact. The record also shows that they no longer exist, at least in the form and to the degree that they once did. Although we have no conclusive proof as to why they perished, the theories that I am aware of do have their basis in fact. And we certainly possess the means to destroy ourselves on a planetary scale, that is also fact. But will we do so? We can only speculate. And will the Y2K bug result in the end of the world as we know it? No one knows.

So again…where does that leave us? It seems to me that choices are available to us in every moment. And one of those choices has to do with the mindset that we select to perceive the world about us. For my part, absent any information that suggests that it is inappropriate to do so, I choose to be optimistic and hopeful about the future. I feel blessed and fortunate to live where I live. I am gainfully employed and I have a roof over my head, and my wife and I are clearly preoccupied with doing the very best job that we are capable of in raising our daughter. As I have indicated above, I have dismissed the notion of a capricious God with a plan. Therefore I will not worry myself about that. As far as nuclear arms are concerned, I make it my business to be as politically aware as I can be, so that I will not vote for some warmonger with an itchy trigger finger. I personally do believe that our collective actions are harming the environment, so again, I keep myself informed and do what I can to address the issues. And if the Hubble Space Telescope were to transmit images of a comet or asteroid that is on a track to destroy the world, I suppose that I would get my affairs in order. But until that time I am simply too busy living my life to worry much about it. And as far as the Y2K computer bug is concerned, I have informed myself on the topic and believe that there is some chance that disruptions may occur. Therefore my family has put up more in our pantry than we would have otherwise. However I am not preaching to others to do the same, nor do I expect to be ridiculed for having done so.

In simple terms what I am saying is this: As we move on to the next millennium our journey continues. And if during the course of this journey we must cross a road, yet in doing so something bears down upon us, we should certainly get out of the way if we can. If we need to cross the road, and we do not hear or see anything, we will probably have safe passage, but there is no guarantee. In addition, it would probably be appropriate to have high hopes for a safe and successful journey. For it seems to me that if we were to do anything less, then the journey might become transformed into a sentence.

 (Essay Collection)