Apocalyptic thinking has often found its way into society on many levels. The crazed fans of zombie movies speak about the rise of mindless hordes seeking to consume the living masses until all is destroyed. Religions of the modern world have a long history on interpretations of their own scriptures and prophecies for the end. Scientists who study the world’s climate or the movement of celestial bodies have numerous theories as to the end of time. Most of them do believe that some form of extinction is possible, whether it is in the form of a cataclysmic event or humanity’s self-destruction. Political minds also have a sense of the end times by positioning themselves well based on their own beliefs. It is quite fascinating to see exactly how these ideas have become part of our society.
To most, the word apocalypse means the end of time, but it is actually a word that means a revelation of the unknown. The Canon of the Roman Catholic Church and its inheritors ends with the Apocalypse of John also known as Revelations. It is through this prism that the word has been coined to mean the end times. However, there is a study of the end times which is known as Eschatology. Many modern religions have their story of the end. One of the first things that a student of Eschatology learns is the manner in which the apocalypse, or revelation, comes to be. The hidden knowledge of the end can be explained in different ways.
One of the great debates in scholarship is the theme of eschatological thinking in the New Testament. The evidence to support this line is very strong in the passages. References made by the Gospels mention the return of God’s Kingdom start to frame the end times. In the letters of Paul, this theme continues as the anticipation of the Messiah’s return is at its core. The Revelation of John brings all of this thinking into context of the times. However, it was not until much later in the 18th and 19th century that the movement took a turn to draw together a great amount of scriptures to support the thinking. The Book of Daniel and Isaiah were drawn upon heavily to elevate the idea into the modern version of Dispensationalism. This begins to break up the prophecies of Daniel and Revelations to set some structure to the end times. From this theological study, modern congregations have taken on the terms of the Rapture and the Tribulation.
The Judeo-Christian eschatology is built on the cryptic prophets and apostles, but other beliefs explain more details to the end times. Ragnarok is the final battle of the Norse Pantheon which is laid out in two forms known as the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. These tales set down the exact results of the battle of the gods. From this battle, most of the gods and monster find an end against each other. In the end, it leaves the world ready to become something new and rise from the destruction. The new world will be populated by two surviving humans. The elements of this story bring about a chaotic change to break apart the stagnant world that is dying.
The myths of end times often share some common traits and themes, but one thing that does hold true is the hope of humanity’s survival into the next world. Some people might consider the fearful images and horrific stories that come from the stories of Eschatology. However, the hope remains that it is not the true end. Myths can provide lessons but offering only despair is not part of their nature.
As to the scientific side, the end of the world might be easier to determine based on the evidence of planetary motion or the Sun’s life expectancy. Of course, predicting the forces of the universe may surprise us all in the same fashion that human nature does.
For several years, I have been faced with a few matters that cause me a shiver. The shiver is due to my lack of knowledge on the subject and to the focus that some have on the topic. This topic is the zombie apocalyptic scenario. Popular culture does many things to enhance the mindset on the matter through movies and games. It is even to the point when some see the beginnings of it in the action of crazy people under an overpass. I was even shocked to hear that a few city governments have begun practicing zombie apocalypse preparedness drills. I don’t discount the idea of preparing for all emergencies, but I hesitate to idly sit back and wait for inner fears become reality.
The mind of a people can easily buy into the hysteria of an idea or event becoming real. It is to the point that it can become reality if enough believe it. I am more frightened by those that believe this can happen than the actual event occurring. Fear and superstition have caused some of the greatest catastrophes in our history. The Black Plague was allowed to flourish because of fear and superstition over cats, which could have killed the rats that carried the fleas that passed the disease to humans. Even in the modern times, we are still a susceptible group.
I am not saying that zombies are impossible. I do believe that all life can be altered and the human mind could be overwhelmed by a disease that induces such a state. My desire is to simply remind that hype and hysteria have a way of paving the road to these disasters. One might even begin to believe that they are a zombie in the same way that people claim to be vampires. The psychology of the matter can be related to other examples, but we should never allow this to make us board up the windows and start seeing things that are not there.
As a nerd, I have many friends that are into the appreciation of zombie genre. They have movies, books, and games. I have listened to them speak of their hypothetical preparedness drill. It is entertaining to hear the vivid details as people attempt to avoid all contact with the creatures and have a large cache of weapons for defense. I often laugh and shake my head. I don’t enjoy the genre and never will, but these friends are entertaining.
I am reminded of a quote from Wil Wheaton on a webshow called 4-Points. His plan, which mimics my own, is if the event happens, he will simply fling himself into the middle of them rather than wait the inevitable. A bit nihilistic, but he touches on a good point. The struggles of the human mind can achieve great things for the world, but against the overwhelming decision of Nature, there is no winning against it.
Or it could be that the possibilities of a zombie apocalypse are nil and we should focus our energies on the constructive ways of life. There is little gain from planning the end of the world. Embrace what you have and make the world better.