The ends of the world — as we know them

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 21, 2012

SALISBURY — By now you’ve heard about or been an eyewitness to the end of the world, as foretold by the Mayan calendar. It’s reassuring to know what I write next will never be read.

But I’m used to that.
End-of-the-world predictions present easy material for late-night comics and jaded hacks such as myself. We pounce on the opportunity to make fun of first, the incomprehensible; and second, how humans would spend their final hours.

Plus, so many holier-than-thou types have told us before the apocalypse was here or near. You probably don’t remember his name, but Jose De Jesus Miranda said an earthquake would shake up the planet and wipe out mankind this past June.

Ronald Weinland, a Church of God minister, gave the planet last rites two different times — in 2008 and May 27 of this year — and now his latest forecast is May 19, 2013.

Preacher Harold Camping said the Rapture was coming in 1994, 1995 and twice in 2011. Pat Robertson predicted in 1976 the final days would come in 1982. In 2007, he vaguely prognosticated a demise for us via nuclear flames.

There have been worldwide snuff-outs declared by numerology, Taiwanese and UFO cults and even some people you might have heard of such as Charles Manson, Jim Jones, John Wesley and Christopher Columbus.

But I think we face our own ends of the world many times throughout our lives. How we deal with them goes a long way in shaping who we are, in fact.

Our personal worlds stop when we lose a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child, a grandchild, a friend, a soldier, a pet.

Things come crashing down when we lose a job, when we receive a bad report from the doctor, when we unintentionally hurt someone, when we are the victims of prejudice or predators.

The end of a relationship kills us. Losing in a championship game can be crushing. Committing a bad mistake makes us want to die sometimes.

Think of the people you know who lost all of their belongings in a fire, hurricane, flood or earthquake. How does a person cope when a person they love is killed in a random shooting or by a drunken driver?

When we were younger, the ends of the world were of a different nature, but catastrophic nonetheless. A splinter. The flushing of a goldfish down the toilet. The neighbor girl liking Jimmy, not Johnny. Receiving a bad grade on a report card. Having no date for the prom.

All these things affect us in varying degrees, so much so that it’s easy to laugh about and poke fun at end-of-world predictions. In a way, we’ve all been there, done that.

The world ended for all of us a week ago when the massacre of young school children occurred in Newtown, Conn. How do we as a nation face another day after this kind of tragedy?

I hate to say it, but we media folks react almost by formula. We write about gun sales, gun control, guns-per-capita, security measures, mental illness, the NRA, funerals, legislation and how parents and communities find a resolve to move on.

After all that passes and the families of Newtown are left alone, they still are left feeling as though time has stopped. We pray for them.

The people who perpetrate these kinds of acts reach world-ending, suicidal decisions of their own. They make a horrifying statement, then kill themselves.

Beyond all the debate about guns, the goal must be to identify them before tragedy happens, provide the help they need and show them one important thing:

It’s not the end of the world.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or