Since the beginning of time, there’s probably been someone sitting around trying to predict the end. It matters little whether the prediction was based on sound scientific evidence of global warming, the instability of the planet’s core, our relative proximity to the sun on Dec. 21, 2012, random calculations rooted in calendars, almanacs compiling data on crop totals since 1852 or fever-dreams inspired by indigestion, one-too many horror movies before bedtime or bad shrooms.
While contemplating the latest call for the end of time, I realized that if, indeed, this truly is the end, then I might be a bit more prepared to just sit back and say that it has been one helluva ride. Personally speaking, my brief lifetime on the planet has produced a few highly unlikely events.
Way back in 1987 (when I graduated from high school) or four years later when I strolled across the stage to claim my degree in Economics, I never would have guessed that in my forties writing about film would somehow be the foundation of my freelance efforts to make a living. I’m not sure I would have even known what the term “freelance” meant.
And let’s not get into the weeds of my family life — stepfather of two daughters and the older brother of a kid younger than my oldest girl. The mere notion of being married still seems strange to me, a guy who never dated anyone longer than nine months, but has somehow survived over six years with three women (yes, girls, you’re far enough on your way to being women that I’m granting you early status) under one roof.
The older brother thing, well, that too is a tricky head game I’m working through because for 29 years, I was an only child and then all of a sudden, there was this other person in the mix, laying claim to my mother as if I didn’t exist.
I love him dearly, maybe a bit more now that he’s finally realized that I was here first.
Of course, the world has changed, and in fundamental ways that I’m still struggling to get a grip on.
Four years ago, I watched the presidential returns with my wife and a couple of friends (a Filipino and a black guy and, no, we didn’t walk into a bar) and we (the three men of color) couldn’t believe we were watching the election of a black president. I, for one, never assumed I would live to see that day, despite all of the civil rights era changes, the rise of political correctness, the emergence of the New South and the impact of Hip Hop on mainstream culture.
If pressed, a black president would have been as likely as a female or an atheist (and we know how improbable that is, right?) to me, but I’m the first to admit that I was wrong on the whole black thing.
But, let’s get real. The world is not coming to an end. December 21, 2012 will arrive and pass with less fanfare than Y2K. Since no one uses the Mayan calendar to keep track of dates and/or time, there will be no need to reset computer systems or alarms clocks (for the two or three folks out there still using analogue devices).
I’m sure a few people out there willing to use anything as an excuse for a party will gather, drink themselves into oblivion and wake up the next morning feeling like it’s all over, but that’s nothing new.
Sadly, though, on the nothing-new front is the idea that we’re still going to be stubbornly as human as we’ve always been. Sidestepping an apocalyptic scare will not change us one bit. How do I know this?
I am cynically predicting that following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., we will, in a matter of a few weeks, proceed into our fearful new future without any significant changes to gun laws or meaningful responses to mental health treatment.
It is ironic, in a sense, to see our reactions to problems such as these, which reduce us to insignificance.
The promise of America (and its people) is not just the promise of rights and freedom, but our potential to rise above, our ability to meet and exceed expectations and challenges. Yet, time and again, in the face of crisis, we stand before the mirror and then step down.
When will this end? (tt stern-enzi)