January 30, 2008

Are the End Times Near?

Fatalists as well as wishful thinkers awaiting the dawning of a new age have predicted "end times" almost from the beginning of time...or, perhaps more accurately, since the beginning of thought.

It's not something I worry or think about, usually. However, the other night, I had my own personal Armageddon.

Turning 50 years old has signaled to me the beginning of the second half of life, and with that, the end of some aspects of that life. It's for sure the end of my reproductive years, unless I want to resort to extreme measures (and for the record, I don't). It's the end of my 40s, according to my birth certificate, the only proof I have that I was born at all. It's the end of being too young to join the AARP. (That's great; I've been wanting to get their magazine for years!)

I was feeling pretty good about all this change; excited, even. Then, the downturn in the stock market happened, and I saw an end to my optimism about my portfolio, which, while on the small side, was doing well, on paper. That's the end of any chance for any kind of retirement, comfortable or not, I thought.

The other night, I dreamt that, while I was sitting at my computer, water began pouring out of it. The computer, with all of my creative writing and important data, was drowning; the machine itself seemed to be melting away. (If you've read some old blog posts of mine, you know that nothing derails me more quickly and thoroughly than a malfunctioning computer.)

I was awakened from this interesting dream by the most amazing—we could say magnificent—rain storm. The wind howled, "Hoo-hoooooo," and I could hear the sounds of heavy objects lifted by the wind, and falling back to earth. For hours, I lay awake as the water beat against my windows, pounded the grounds, roofs, shingles, and terraces of the condo complex where I live.

An ancient, recycled thought, "End times are near," occurred to me, and the inquiry was immediate.

End times are near; is it true? How could I know? No, it's not true; not in this moment.

How do I react when I believe this thought? Fearfully; as if endings are always bad things; as if it would be painful if life as I know it were to end; as if there were, in reality, such things as the concepts of beginning, end, time, and life.

I lie awake in bed, my body cold, my mind restless as it spins stories that I don't believe but can't stop from coming in...about the storm, and the damage it could do; it could be a natural holocaust, of which current events had been an inauspicious harbinger. What next? Blackouts? Electrical fires? Collapsed infrastructure? Earthquake? Tsunami? Nuclear meltdown? Who needs God, or nukes, or Armageddon, when we have my fearful mind as a reference for what's to come?

I look at my life and imagine it will soon be over, and that I haven't done enough with it. The thought renders my life—life itself—meaningless and lacking.

Who would I be without this thought? In an instant, as I reach for a bottle of water next to my bed, I can see it...I would be alive, and grateful. I'm amazed at the miracle of hand grasping container, pouring it, my head tilting upwards from the pillow, mouth opening to receive, thirst quenched. Am I even doing any of it? Even if I am, is this not enough?

The action itself is a beginning and an end, and it seems to have nothing to do with me; "she," the body-mind with which I identify, is always taken care of when care is needed. Life is complete if it ends now...and it does end, in each moment, just as in each moment, it begins.

Who would I be without my story? I would listen to the music of water and wind, feel the softness of the memory-foam mattress, the bed beneath it, the floor beneath that, the earth below that holds us.

All is well...and I would notice.

Turn the thought around:

End times are not near. That is truer; there is no end of time as long as thought prevails. There's no end of time as long as I still have an "I." There's no end as long as there are beginnings, which there are in every moment.

Beginning times are near...and here. Now. And now. And now again.

End times, beginning times: there is no difference. The end of an illusion means there is always something new, a birth, a freshness, the Creation itself.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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