Ever since those early days that we rarely talk about anymore – when humanity was just taking its baby steps and gurgling happily away at nothing like any oblivious toddler – we’ve seen signs and portents in most everything.
Things like the sun and the moon were worshipped as gods. Clouds were platforms for them and their angels to look down on us in judgment like parents looking down at their cot-bound offspring. The idea became universal among us.
Yeah. mankind pretty much never left that toddler stage.
All of a sudden gods were the IN thing and you could find messages from them in things like sheep guts and horse hearts. If you gathered the bones of your enemies and cast them down you could decipher the future. Plus they made a nice tinkly sound on the cave floor.
Then we discovered fire, and in the flames, we found a hotline direct to the gods as well as other hallucinogenic experiences, depending on what fuel you were burning. Cavemen would sit for hours giggling at each other giggling, someone would get the munchies and order take out sabre-tooth, they all grew beards and sang about Lucy in the sky. That sort of thing.
But when the gods were angry, or busy fighting each other or partying too much, ‘things’ started happening in the sky above us. Thunderstorms heralded the gods’ fury, flaming balls shot across the heavens, presumably to smite someone’s enemy, and every once in a while things got really bad.
Really really bad. Like the sun going dark kind of bad. Like the end of the world is coming kind of bad. Like whichever god whose fan club you were a member had decided enough was enough and it was time to wipe out everyone, whether they had renewed their membership or not.
You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this right now. If you haven’t, keep reading – if you’ve read this far you might as well see where this crazy Captain dude is going with his caveman and gods epic. (If you have? Read anyway you might get a chuckle or two more).
Still with me? Awesome! You see, the point of it all is this: mankind really hasn’t done a lot of growing up since those caveman toddler days. We may have whittled down our number of gods a little, but as soon as we see celestial events like eclipses (either kind), or the recent Blood Moons, we can’t help but think it’s Over. That our time on this little ball in space is at an End. The only difference now is that some of us have little books we like to carry that document our particular god’s instructions to its followers and helpful pointers on what to look out for when that god gets tired of having worshippers.
For every recent astronomical event – I could go ‘human experience’ recent, or ‘lifetime’ recent, but for argument’s sake let’s just take the last ten years as a sample – there are more than a few claimants that This Is The End. That god (whichever one) is reclaiming earth and Judgement Day is at hand.
Wikipedia makes mention of thirteen times that people were predicting the End in the last decade alone. I would reckon I’ve read at least six different predictions in the last year alone. Every time the chosen date comes along the prophet claims to have misinterpreted their handbook and offers up a revised date. And people keep falling for it.
If you’ve ever read the short story anthology “The End Is Nigh” (if you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor!) there’s a brilliant entry in which a charlatan founds his own cult on a prediction of the apocalypse. He picks a day entirely at random and the world actually ends. I keep thinking of this story every time I read yet another Judgement Day claim.
As for the Great North American Eclipse? I’ll have some more to say on that in the coming days. It won’t be the End of the World but it will be a spectacular event that you shouldn’ miss if you’re in its path. Forget your god’s book and go and be amazed at something as amazingly mundane as the moon blocking the light of the sun from reaching your vantage point – if you happen to be in view of it.
And remember that the rest of the world won’t see what you’re seeing – and that’s no way for Judgement Day to kick off, is it?
You can find out more about the coming eclipse at the NASA site:
- Eclipse 2017
- Eclipse Safety (hint: holy books are ineffective)
- Eclipse Misconceptions (looking at you, religious prophets)