Knox: The soothsayers are playing human GPS

Jack Knox Victoria Times Colonist / Kamloops Daily News
December 21, 2012 01:00 AM

Right, it's Doomsday.

Quick, go hit on the closest hottie: "You know, baby, this could be our last day on Earth...."

Man, but it's going to be good when this day comes to an end, one way or another. Not since the Canadian women's rugby team posed naked has a calendar caused such a fuss.

All over the world, people have been bracing for today's Mayan Meltdown.

Survival shelters are selling like handguns in the U.S. Two Chinese men have built arks. France, in a scene out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is trying to stop the tinfoil chapeau crowd from scaling Pic de Bugarach, a mountain from which hidden aliens are supposed to emerge today. Even in Holland, home to some of the most level-headed people on Earth, thousands have been stuffing boats and bunkers with supplies.

Which should give Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield the best seat in the house when the Earth turns into a pumpkin.

Hadfield blasted off on a Russian Soyuz rocket Wednesday, heading for a five-month stay on the International Space Station. He was due to arrive today.

"We're going to be docking on the day the world ends," he said last week, on the phone from Kazakhstan.

The astronaut had an intriguing explanation for the Mayan madness: "People want significance in their lives," he said. "They want to know their time has mattered. Everyone wants their 75 or 80 years on Earth to be the most significant ones in history ... And what could make our time on Earth more significant than if the world ended while we were alive?"

Hence the current hoopla - "a cry for significance."

That's one way of putting it. Here's another: irrational conceit. The Earth has been spinning for something like 4.5 billion years. What makes us so special that it should screech to a halt in our lifetime? You need a Toronto-sized sense of self-importance to swallow that one.

It's like the nervous Nellie panic that spread like anthrax after 9/11, everyone expecting al-Qaeda to strike in their own backyard. "B.C. Ferries is vulnerable to terrorist attack! Our seaplanes could be hijacked!" Yes, but "could" doesn't mean "will." Osama bin Laden wasn't holed up in a cave, going, "Our next targets are the White House, the United Nations and the Queen of Nanaimo."

The same thought process drives those who predict the world will nd on their watch. In 1980, for example, televangelist Pat Robertson guaranteed "judgment on the world" by the end of 1982.

This leaves the soothsayers playing human GPS - recalculating, recalculating - when the world fails to end at the appointed hour.

Those who believe predictions that today will see the Earth bowling-balled by the planet Niburu should remember that the strike was originally expected in May 2003.

Likewise, Kentucky televangelist Ronald Weinland, having forecast the Second Coming for this past May 27, has rescheduled for May 19, 2013 (though by then, he is due to be in jail on tax-evasion charges).

Also remember that radio preacher Harold Camping had a strikeout in 1994 before settling on May 21, 2011. He reportedly spent $100 million advertising May's demise worldwide. After that deadline passed, he reset the dial to Oct. 21, 2011. We're still waiting.

The problem is, while we're waiting for something significant to happen, we forget to do anything significant.

That's not to be confused with fame. "There's a lot of fleeting fame, whether you're a monkey in a shear-ling coat, or whatever the current excitement is," Hadfield said.

Fame is not important. Leading a life with meaning is. For him, that means exploring the sky, not hoping it will fall.

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