Last night I spent two hours watching a horror movie.
I usually enjoy horror movies. I’m a big fan of Stephen King and before him Alfred Hitchcock. At the same time, I can think of only two movies in this genre that really impressed me. The first was Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” It scared the living daylights out of me. Much more recently the very last scene in “Paranormal Activity” was totally unexpected and, I confess, had much the same effect.
The problem with last night’s movie was that it wasn’t supposed to be a horror flick. It purported to be an examination of the prophecies of Nostradamus, that 17th century seer and mystic who contributed to our civilization by telling us that it will all end on the morning of December 21, 2012.
You think it all started with a Big Bang? That’s nothing compared to the way it will all end. The Big Bang was all over in one billionth of a billionth of a second. The end may take a little longer like a second or two, during which time we may all be inundated by tsunamis, crushed like tin cans by rollicking earthquakes (perhaps that should be “rolling” earthquakes) or swallowed whole along with the sun in some bottomless black hole.
Whichever way you look at it, the end looks to be spectacular. It does not promise to be pretty. It gives no hint whatsoever of being pleasant.
We’ve been treated to doomsday prophets throughout history. In the last year alone we’ve had at least two promises that the world will end on such and such a date. To my knowledge, it didn’t happen. But there’s at least three big differences in those latter-day prophecies and those of Nostradamus.
1. The first was that most of those recent characters were idiots.
2. The second is that Nostradamus didn’t get into the “saved and unsaved” bit.
3. The third is that Nostradamus wasn’t exactly alone in his predictions.
First, Nostradamus was no fool. I don’t think he was any fun at a party, mind you. It’s hard to imagine him leading a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” just before daylight. At the same time, he might have done real well in the fortune-telling business with a little extra line on the side reading tea leaves (or as a Toronto fan might say, tea “leafs”).
Getting your palm read by Nostradamus wouldn’t exactly fill you with the joy of living. But there’s no doubt he was a highly intelligent man tormented by terrible visions of the future. That wouldn’t be a problem for me except it’s my future — or lack of it — he’s talking about. Second, the more recent doomsday prophets do give us some chance of escaping the wrath that is to come. There is an out, so to speak.
Nostradamus makes no mention of this means of avoiding the end. Either he didn’t know about or forgot all about being “saved.” If you’re “saved” in the strict fundamentalist definition of that word, you’ve got ’er knocked. If not, you should kiss your bum goodbye by whatever means you deem appropriate or physically possible.
Nostradamus obviously didn’t see the importance of being saved. Of course he lived a long time before John Wesley, Fanny Crosby and Billy Graham so perhaps he can be forgiven for not including that factor in his prognostications. Ignorance alone might save him. Like you, I would not have that excuse. I will, however, be one ticked off lad should I, while being swept away by a tsunami, catch a glimpse of Nostradamus standing safely on “the other shore.”
I do apologize to all my fundamentalist friends — and I do have a good many — for making light of a concept which is so important to you. The most I can say is that you sees things your way and I sees ’em mine.
And thirdly, the biggie in all this. When Nostradamus declares in his writings that 2012 will be the end of time, he’s hardly alone. For thousands of years advanced cultures as far back as the Egyptians have been seeing patterns in the stars and the manner in which they move around the heavens.
The most notable of these cultures was the Maya of Central America. They were as good at reading the stars as they were beheading their enemies. They were an extremely violent people.
But man, did those fellows know their stars! Better still, they understood the language of the heavens, or as someone more poetic than I put it, “the music of the spheres.”
They were so advanced that they knew exactly not only where the stars were relative to the earth, but also where they would be in the distant future. Modern science has confirmed that on Dec. 21, 2012, the sun will be lined up precisely with the center of the Milky Way galaxy from the earth’s perspective, just as they said.
The incredibly accurate Mayan calendar ends on that date. That, they say, will be the catastrophic end to time.
Nostradamus doesn’t let us off as easily as that. According to his writings, or quatrains, 2012 itself will be a year to remember — if there’s anyone left to remember it. He sees everything from killer storms to super volcano eruptions, to far-reaching famines to global political upheaval making life before the end a literal hell on earth.
Anyone take a good look at the news lately? 2011 seems to be a pretty good introduction to the next 12 months.
Do I believe the world will come to an end on the morning of Dec. 21, 2012? Nope, not really.
I believe the real message of Nostradamus is that we are so close to destroying our world that we have to make some hard choices to save ourselves. The question is whether or not the nations of the world have the will to act, and act quickly.
Perhaps 2012 will tell the story after all.
Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.