I hog the dialogue to ramble and rant about what I believe reality is telling us, semiotically, regarding 'the end.' Yoni is patient and gracious, adding helpful insights toward the bridges we're building.
"The End Signs! Are They Really Coming?" is the working title of the current draft of my DMin dissertation. "The End Signs!" has a subtle innuendo: at one level it reads as a simple phrase, like "The Big Ben" or the infamous apocalyptic phrase, "The End Times!" as a central topic in eschatology. On another level, however, it's a complete sentence (like 'the POTUS tweets') telling us that "The End" (whatever that means) is sending signals to us, sending us signs from the past, present, and future, that don't seem to be getting through our semiotic filters or our cognitive unwillingness to receive and read them.
Anyway, here are the four types of signs I'm inclined to think we're being sent from "The End."
- Each of us will die. A time is coming when "the end" of this life will arrive. Think not? Ask your primary care physician how long s/he thinks you're going to live. The answer you certainly will not be given is, "why, forever, of course!" Unless s/he is joking. This is the 'end sign' personally addressed to each of us individually.
- The cosmos will one day cease to exist. Ask your local theoretical physicist this: "What are the 'Big Bang' and the 'Big Crunch'?" Short answer -- "Everything came from nothing in a Big Bang about 14 billion years ago and will become nothing again in a Big Crunch sometime in the far distant future; nothing to worry about." So you ask, "Why will that happen?" Short answer, "Entropy." This is the 'end sign' contemporary standard-model scientism is discerning from their knowledge of the cosmos. Those signs are expressed in the arcane elitist lingua franca of scientism, of course -- the mind-boggling formal systems of logic and maths, i.e., the 21st century hieroglyphics that maybe 0.1% of the world's population can even begin to decipher.
- There are good reasons to suspect we humans have foolishly brought ourselves to the brink of our own self-inflicted doom. A nasty nefarious nexus of existential threats to humanity -- not just military or terrorist -- each of which is at least potentially an extinction-level-event (ELE), is increasingly likely to send us over that precipice into the unthinkable; the oblivious abyss where life on earth isn't viable or it's extinguished in a matter of hours, days, weeks, months, or if we're very unlucky, years of agonizing horror and dying. Climate change, multiple monstrous arsenals of all sorts of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and more, not to mention 'acts of God' or of Mother Nature, such as the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting or diseases we've forgotten for centuries (or never seen before) suddenly reappearing as the permafrost stops being 'perma,' thanks to global warming. The cause behind all this? Evidence is mounting and becoming increasingly overwhelming that we are well into the Anthropocene Age of our own self-destruction, especially due to the ongoing shifting baseline syndrome and cultural lag we've created, and the proliferation of technology traps (aka, 'progress traps') caused by those ongoing trends. For a sampling of these end signs, check out the Center for Climate and Security and The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists .
- What Jonathan and I also deal with are spiritual, transcendental, religious questions of what comes after life and death? We do this from two perspectives:
- Like #1, we ask what awaits each of us individually on the other side of that ineffably mysterious threshold at the end of this life? Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), heir-apparent to Einstein as the world's smartest human in his time and a world-class scientismist, said belief in the afterlife is a "fairy tale for those afraid of the dark." I call this "Hawking's Gauntlet" thrown in the face of all human religions. Jonathan and I both disagree with Hawking, of course, and we seek to sort through and find resonant harmonies in the differences between the orthodox Jewish and devoted Christian responses to that challenge ... but that's a longer story for our future discussions.
- Like #2, Jonathan and I are also interested in the bigger picture of what is called "eschatology" in theological circles, referring to 'End Times" when, according to both Old and New Testament prophecy, TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) will arrive at the same time for all of us. We're pretty sure we don't foresee the same thing scientism envisions as the 'Big Crunch' (due to entropy), but sorting out and harmonizing the differences in Jewish and Christian views on this issue is an important concern for us.
These are the ends being signed / signaled to us by the cosmos, by Mother Nature, by G-d and/or Jesus Christ, and by the scientism of our times. Sadly, it seems the only choice we've left ourselves is whether we end up being delusional deniers or hapless victims. In the end they're the same thing, and the most vivid signs, as I read them, are screaming at us that it's already too late.
So sing "O Happy Day" and "Don't Worry, Be Happy" if you like. For me, though, every few days I think I'll re-read W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming" and Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night." I prefer to come to my end in truth and Truth, in whatever combination or singularity of #1-#4 above it may arrive, however terrifying and agonizing it might be. It just isn't in the marrow of my bones to embrace the fantasy that my grandchildren will have a better life in a better world, thanks to us Baby Boomers who sold our souls along with our spines and our consciences.
The "dying of the light" is more or less imminent in all four of those ways. And rage, for me at least, is the only rational and meaningful response to the darkness. If there's any love at all in any of these signs of the end, it's probably found only in #4. We humans apparently and hopelessly love the "rough beast" and can't wait to jump on his bandwagon to Bethlehem.
Don't mind me. I'm just Chicken Little. The sky isn't really falling. Move along. Nothing happening here.