Before getting back to the programme, please can I just set all your minds at rest. The world isn’t going to end this week. It really isn’t. I hereby give you my cast-iron guaranteed on-my-honour promise of that, and you can sue me in the afterlife if I’m wrong.
It isn’t going to end on Friday 21 December or any other date predicted by the ancient Mayans, Nostradamus, Harold Camping, Tim LaHaye, or any of the other myriad soothsayers of the apocalypse over the centuries.
Look, even Jesus himself apparently isn’t too sure when it’s going to happen, or at least wasn’t when he was available for anyone to ask. Confident predictions of his return started about 5 minutes after he left the first time, and for nearly 2000 years have all been wrong. There’s no reason to think he’s going to turn up now just because the Mayans ran out of calendar. And even if God does decide that it’s time for Christ to return, it will be to reign not to end the world.
Our Sun can keep itself going for a few billion more years, and our planet has a fair few ages left to run as well, assuming we don’t somehow blow it up or make it uninhabitable first. It’s certainly possible that our native human stupidity will bring about our collective demise at some point in the next few hundred or few thousand years, but it’s very unlikely we’ll do the job properly and there are almost bound to be survivors, if only by accident.
Yes, there may one day be a giant asteroid strike, or a super-volcano, or a mega-bug pandemic – but none of these things are likely to wipe out the whole world or everyone and everything in it. And the ideas that we’ll all be consumed by nanotechnological grey goo or taken over by AI machines are entertaining but frankly laughable.
Apocalyptic thinking is, in my view, dangerous and futile. If an apocalypse really is coming we won’t be able to avoid it, and I’m not all that sure why we’d want to survive it as some seem determined to. The best we can do is to live as well as we can now, treating each other and the planet in ways that make it more likely there actually will be a tomorrow.
I can’t of course guarantee that terrible and tragic things won’t happen around the world and in the lives of individuals, as they sadly do every day on this messed-up world. I can’t promise how long your own life will last. I can’t promise that we won’t soon precipitate global calamities by our cavalier treatment of the planet and its finite resources, or by our strange propensity to destroy each other with ever more sophisticated weaponry. And I certainly can’t say when Jesus will return.
But I really do promise you that the world won’t end on Friday 21 December. I’m afraid you can’t get out of Christmas that easily. Nor out of my Christmas blog posts, due to resume tomorrow, whatever the Mayans think.