The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

January 9, 2013

Just in case, it’s been nice knowing you

— Depending on whom you believe, the world will explode on Friday, killing us all and thereby ending Earth as we know it.

I’m just happy to have gotten all my Christmas shopping done, but I’m royally bummed that I won’t be able to give my presents — or presence — to anyone on Christmas Day. Ain’t that a kick in the pants?

We’ve been bracing for Friday for the past couple of years, after it was first revealed that the Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Of course, we have gotten ourselves in a tizzy over such end-of-the-world events before. Y2K anyone?

I can distinctly remember staying up late on Dec. 31, 1999, just waiting to see what happened. I expected the lights to go out, but they stayed on. I expected to see throngs of torch-carrying hooligans walking down my street, but they stayed in bed, sleeping off the New Year’s Eve hangover.

The end of the world didn’t happen then, and I don’t much reckon it will happen on Friday, either. However, I’ve been (rarely) wrong before.

I spent a few minutes researching the subject this week and found, much to my delight, that the Mayans knew nothing about the Gregorian Leap Year, and therefore, did not include that in their calculations. With that in mind, the world may instead end in July 2013, not Friday.

If I’m wrong (rarely), I still have much left to accomplish in my young life. I’ve yet to know the feeling of fatherhood, so I have only a few days left to steal an infant and give it a whirl.

I’ve also never known the feeling of driving an Italian sports car at speeds of 200 mph or more with reckless abandon on an interstate. I guess I’ll have to steal one of those, too.

Instant fatherhood and reckless driving would likely kill me, but it’s all right. It’s the end of the world, right? If I gotta go, I want to go doing something I enjoy doing. I won’t be hiding in a closet with a loaded shotgun, three gallons of purified water and several cans of Vienna sausages, waiting for the four horsemen and a rain of fire. When the end comes, those things won’t save me anyway.

In all honesty, I really don’t expect the world to end Friday. I also don’t expect it to end in July 2013. I figure when God’s had enough of our selfishness, murdering innocent people, lying, cheating, stealing and general evil deeds, he’ll push the button to extinguish mankind. After what happened in Connecticut on Friday, I sometimes wonder what He’s waiting on.

Another side of me believes that maybe He’s waiting to see if we, as a society, can change. Maybe He’s waiting to see if we can learn to put others first; to see if we — in this instant-gratification world we live in — can learn to be decent, loving people. He’s clearly a very patient God, because I don’t think we’re getting the message.

I’m (clearly) not much of a philosopher or a theologian. There are people who get paid good money — and sometimes nothing at all — to serve in those capacities. However, I believe that it’s not our job to know or care about when the end comes.

It is our job to strive to be the best people we can be; to love and care about the less fortunate and more fortunate alike. And in this Christmas season, we should all try a little harder. I know I plan to try a little harder, and it won’t require a visit from a long-dead business partner or visits from three ghosts.

But just in case the end does come Friday, it’s been nice knowing you. Vienna sausage anyone?

— Managing editor Adam Smith can be reached at adam@athensnews-courier.com.

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