Walk outside into your waning September days and you find yourself wrapped inside a blaze of fiery colors and a bite of falling temperatures. Once again it’s sweater weather in the Midwest. That glorious funeral of summer and prologue to winter. This year, however, there is more than the fragrance of wet leaves in the air. Sniff a little more. That’s right, a whiff of brimstone….!
Generally there are two kinds of people out here. The Humanists, who love the earth and embrace the idea that in it all life is part of the same pantheistic whole. Namely, that the same stardust that evolved into our wondrous planet also evolved into you and me. In contrast, there are the Theists who believe this cosmic evolution had a beginning. As at the hands of a personal god.
Most Humanists speak of going-with-the-flow and embracing-the-now, for this is all there is. But for many Theists, this flow is really only part of a cosmic plan. A plan whose secrets can be found in some of the ancient scrolls, the Jews’ Torah, and the Christian’s Book of Revelations. All with a little of Nostradamus and Mayan calendars in the mix.
Which is why right now millions of mystics and fundamentalists smell more than autumn in our days. There is also the distinct smell of apocalyptic brimstone as our world hurtles toward its predicted end. Granted, the end has been erroneously predicted hundreds of times — starting with the Persians, St Paul, the Popes, the shamans, and right up to last summer in California.
But if you’re a true end-times believer, these were the errors of men, not of god.
Swing through the Coptic communities of Egypt, the mountain monasteries of Greece, or the network of Baptist churches in the American south. They will point to “the signs.” Undoubtedly there are many signs to point to. The torrent of volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, famines. wars, and international anti-christs strutting the stage of history. Plus — in the minds of most fundamentalist Christians — the fact that “the Jews have at last found a home.”
That last sign — coupled with the predicted final battle between Good and Evil at Armageddon in the Middle East — has cast a long dark shadow upon the pulpits of churches and synagogue alike. For some there is a dystopian sense of resignation in all this. For others, all the more reason to live today to the brim.
For someone like me — somewhere in the middle — one of my favorite predictions is that on some distant day, medical science will find a reason that allows us mere mortals the immortal glory of once more burning our autumn leaves. Don’t smirk at the smallness of my prediction. Not until you too have inhaled that smoky magic filling the streets of your autumn afternoons….
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