The end of the world

During the early years of my travelling life, I used to meet a prophet of doom, who believed that the world’s end was imminent, at least once a year. They always seemed to be failed writers or philosophers, living in squalid conditions in a youth hostel, often sitting alone at a table in the kitchen or common room, avoided by every other guest, until Yours Truly would unwittingly sit next to them.

But it has been awhile since I have met such a character, possibly because I am less inclined to stay in the dives that previously I had been quite drawn to.

Until the other day, in Cairo, when a young English lad (with required goatee) came and sat next to us at breakfast.

“I spent half the night sleeping in the desert, until a pack of wild dogs started circling,” he said randomly – definitely a bad sign when you can’t comprehend the first sentence.

He then proceeded to introduce himself as a writer, and displayed absolutely not interest whatsoever in who we are. What had he written? I wondered.

Apparently, his entire life’s work amounted to a single book predicting the start of the end of the world (next year, apparently, for it usually is). A book that he was too afraid to publicise, though he still gave me the ‘secret’ link, which, respecting his wishes, I will not include here.

Having dated a Jehova Witness for almost 18 months, I have quite a lot of experience with people that spend their whole lives trawling through the bible, piecing together numbers so that they can accurately calculate the fateful day when this world will end.

I admit to being a bit of a sceptic about this. I’m pretty sure that one day the world will end, either through nuclear war or because an asteroid colides with us. But much less certain that any single individual can actually predict when or how. People have been trying for years, without much success. The Jehovah Witnesses have wrongly predicted, no less than three times, the end of the world.

What I always wonder is: what happens after the prediction has failed to come true? Do these people feel pretty stupid, slink back into their shells and get a job as an accountant (you need to be good at maths to understand the Bible, apparently)? In my experience, the reverse is true in a lot of cases. Rather than give up their beliefs, they redouble their efforts to find the truth. Maybe, in their complex biblical maths, they forgot to carry the 1. That kind of thing. Can make all the difference.

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