This is the way the world will end (X3)

Friday 11 July 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Worldfuture 2014

You know me, dear readers, I’m the eternal optimist. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. This is a big part of the reason my “bucket list” includes attending the General Assembly of the World Future Society. It’s an annual worldwide conference of futurists from various fields who share ideas about what the future may hold in store based on current trends and events. This year’s “Worldfuture” (combining words in this way is very trendy right now but the Germans have been doing it forever) begins today in Orlando, Fla. Unfortunately, I’m otherwise occupied — maybe next year. 

My particular area of interest is how the world might end. This has never been a burning topic among Catholics, but it is the very reason for the existence of a handful of other denominations. The latter spend all their time, energy, and money (well, a bit of it anyway) attempting to predict the end of the world. Their predictions are based on some unsubstantiated secret code of the Bible. These apocalypticists seek out present events as dire signs of Biblical proportions. When some prediction fails to bring on the end of the world, they simply come up with another, ad infinitum (or ad nauseam.) You can easily get the drift of their observations by watching one of their television networks. 

Or, if you prefer something a little more scientific, you can also get predictions about the end of the world by watching “More to History” (H2). H2 is a digital cable and satellite television channel owned by A & E Networks, a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Walt Disney Company.  By the way, H2 attracts more upscale middle-aged men than any other cable channel, with the exception of ESPN. More than 69 million American households receive H2. Not that all 69 million households watch it simultaneously, I’m sure, but sometimes I do.

 If H2 appeals to men at mid-life, and if I sometimes watch it, then it is likely that at this point I am halfway through my life. And if I am halfway through my life that could only mean that my life expectancy is 136 years. At that age, I probably couldn’t care less what was on TV. 

On H2 I have learned that the end of the world will be brought about by hostile visitors from other planets. According to “ancient alien theorists,” these highly-intelligent creatures have been visiting earth for centuries, scoping things out. I doubt it, but there is increasing scientific likelihood that other life forms (even intelligent ones) do exist somewhere out there. A close encounter of the fifth kind seems to be inevitable. Maybe we should have already in place an Intergalactic Office of the State Department. Pope Francis has commented off-the-cuff that if intelligent life is discovered on another planet, he would consider baptizing an alien.

On H2, I have learned that the world could actually end with some cosmic event, like a collision with a giant meteor. On the other hand, perhaps the melting of the polar caps will hasten our demise; or maybe the poles themselves will reverse. This happens every 100,000 years or so. We’re overdue.

Maybe the collapse of some essential component of our ecosystems (like the oceans or the rainforests) will wreak havoc. Maybe a pandemic will wipe out the human race. Maybe earth will be sucked into a black hole. Maybe the end game scenario will be caused by a giant solar flare. All of the above are possibilities.

Or maybe we will be the creators of our own catastrophe through an accident in the fields of biotechnology, nuclear engineering, or some advanced physics experiment gone haywire, or by the dissipation of the ozone layer caused by global warming.

On H2, I learned all about the cryptic writings of Michel de Notre Dame (Michael of Our Lady) otherwise known as “Nostradamus,” the 16th-century French pharmacist. Some today believe his symbolic scribbling predicted future world events that would bring about the end. I suspect Nostradamus was smoking something now illegal in most of these United States. 

H2 can give viewers collective apoplexy. Nevertheless, when you come right down to it, dear readers, most if not all of these potential disasters can be avoided if we address them in advance with funded scientific research and technology. As the Boy Scouts are fond of reminding us, “Be prepared.”

There’s a reason why Catholics are not easily bamboozled by reports that the sky is falling. The reason is that the Catholic Church is a Biblical Church. Our faith is based on the Bible and on tradition. Both clearly teach that the culmination of life on earth as we know it will come when the Lord returns in glory to establish His Kingdom. We pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” How and when is not for us to know. 

The many and varied end-of-the-world predictions of H2 are nothing more than entertainment for middle-aged men. I should know.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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