“It seems to be that people have a real fascination with the mystery of end time predictions. People get all excited about Nostradamus’ prophecies, 2012, and of course biblical prophecy has really been a topic of fascination for thousands of years. But birds falling from the sky? That has more to do with pagan mythology.” That’s Kirk Cameron, creator and star of the right-wing Christian apocalyptic series Left Behind talking to Anderson Cooper about the dead fish and birds that have, well, plagued Arkansas in recent days.
Certainly knowing that some 90,000 dead fish have washed up and 5,000 dead birds have fallen on your state is, at the very least, hella creepy. Not to mention the fact that USA Today just reported that “500 red-winged-blackbirds and starlings were found dead along a quarter-mile stretch of highway in Louisiana” yesterday. The Arkansas Game and Fish commission believes that the birds that fell from the sky New Year’s Eve “hit something very hard and had hemorrhages.” According to USA Today, “speculation for the cause of death is that loud noises, perhaps from fireworks, frightened the birds and sent them crash(ing) into buildings.” Experts haven’t yet offered a reason why the birds in Louisiana were killed.
So are these bizarre animal deaths a sign of the end of times? Madeline noted yesterday that Harold Camping, leader of the independent Christian ministry Family Radio Worldwide, believes Judgement Day will be May 21, 2011. As Madeline wrote, Camping thinks, “On that day of the Rapture, followers of Christ will be taken to heaven. The rest of us will suffer through the Period of Torment.”
All of the natural disasters that took place around the world in 2010 serve to fuel this end of days frenzy, as do things like NASA’s discovery of “alien” life on Earth. The question is not whether or not people are enthralled by the idea of the end of times, but why?
Humans seem to have a hankering for the self-destructive, and romanticising the end of our existence may be easier than rising to the occasion of creating a better world. Negative energy is so alluring in every aspect of life, even parenting. But negative energy is deceptive. It seems so much easier to ignore or yell at a child than to take time to kneel down at their level and talk to them, explain things to them, answer their questions.
Perhaps there’s a metaphor there for our understanding of the Universe, as well. It’s easier, some think, to believe in supernatural forces than it is for us to dig for the scientific explanations for bizarre happenings. It’s sort of primitive to jump to conclusions, assuming that something evil or ominous has caused these bizarre animal deaths and the natural disasters we’ve seen in the last year. Rather than try to identify the fireworks display that startled the birds in Arkansas, people would rather remain fascinated by the unexplained nature of thousands of birds dropping from the sky. Remember the UFO’s over New York that turned out to be a bunch of balloons that escaped an engagement party? UFO’s are a lot more exciting than balloons.
I’m not saying there’s a scientific or rational explanation for every strange thing that happens, though. I mean, a friend was just telling me today about the television series Ancient Aliens that explores the idea that “thousands of years ago, space travelers from other planets visited Earth, where they taught humans about technology and influenced ancient religions.” Whereas believing in aliens was once something just for weirdos and sci-fi geeks, it’s almost uncivilized now not to acknowledge the possibility that intelligent life may exist elsewhere in the Universe, even though we can’t explain how or why. None of that precludes me from believing in God, but my concept of God is more mystical than the vengeful God depicted in the Old Testament who might do something like make it rain birds. (You have to admit, the dead birds falling from the sky thing is a bit reminiscent of the frog scene in Magnolia.) I guess if it starts raining frogs, I may have to think twice about whether or not Harold Camping is right.
I’m not sure how it started, but my daughter often ends her phone conversations with her Dad and I by saying, “I love you to the end of the Earth.” I think it comes from me having told her, “I love you ’til the end of time.” What I meant, naturally, was that my love for her is infinite, because to me time has no beginning or end. The end of the Earth, however, seems sort of finite – and clearly to some, imminent. Hearing my daughter say that has always kind of rubbed me the wrong way, considering the end of times obsession that began around Y2K. I’ve thought about trying to wean her away from the phrase, but I’ve never wanted to make a big deal about it. I’m sure to her the end of the Earth is unimaginable, which is just how it should be, dead birds or no.