Note: title is from the song by R.E.M.
From the beginning of time human beings have pondered and attempted to predict "the end." Hebrew and Christian scriptures seem to foretell of this event. Prophets throughout all of history have made their own attempts at naming the day and time of this "inevitable" moment. And yet, over and over, these predictions prove to be false. What, then, are we to understand of these prophecies? Is the coming end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 a prophecy of new beginnings or a time of endings? Is the end of the world imminent, or in the words of modern day prophets, R.E.M., is it more about the "end of the world as we know it"? I am proposing that perhaps it is a matter of personal choice.
In Zen Buddhism, it is taught that each moment we live is a lifetime. We die and are born again in each new moment. In this, they have truly grasped the truth that really all we have is This Moment. Eckhart Tolle reminds us again and again of this in his speaking and writing. From this perspective, the end of the world happens over and over in each moment of each day. Life as we know it comes to an end and we are invited to welcome its new opportunities.
Unfortunately, when we think of the end of the world, it is not usually from this perspective. Instead, for most of us in Western society, our understanding comes from a certain interpretation of the Book of Revelation from Christian scripture. This allegory is rife with images of hellfire and brimstone, horrifying demons and creatures with seven heads. Popularized in the Left Behind series and in the growing cult of fundamentalism, this is what comes to mind for most people as they imagine the end times. I too have been tempted to wonder if I will be one of those taken in up in the rapture, or one of the unfortunate who are left behind. Fortunately, this is but one perspective.
The problem with this perspective on Revelation is that it is at best, incomplete. For centuries, this book has been read as a prophecy of doom-as a threat of what will be in store for us if we do not adhere to the rules of the institution. Of course, one would interpret these writings as such when taken from the perspective of the "punishments" and "plagues." On careful reading, however, there is another option. Yes, The Book of Revelation is filled with horrific images. However, these are not the only images depicted. This work of metaphor is also filled with images of great beauty and magnificence. I will call these images the "blessings." When we read Revelation from the perspective of the blessings, a whole new meaning begins to emerge.
When examined from this perspective, the meaning behind the Book of Revelation is obvious. The blessings represent the human experience when we remember the ultimate truth-that we are One, with each other and with the Source that has created us (in Judeo / Christian Scripture-"I AM"). "I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last," the phrase that is the focus of Revelation, extends for us the invitation to believe just that. When we allow the Divine Source to be the origin and center of our lives, we then know the abundant peace, love and joy that flow from this Source. In this awareness, we experience the blessings of our human journey-even in the face of perceived challenges; suffering; or death.
Making the Divine Source the center of our perspective allows us to find the life rather than the death in these situations. Shifting our focus from the perception of struggle or loss, we find gratitude in the opportunities for growth, healing and transformation. Living out of this awareness, we experience what Christian scripture calls, "The kingdom of God" or "The New Jerusalem."
These are the blessings promised and foretold when we read Revelation from this perspective. From this vantage point, the idea of the end of the world is no longer about prophecies of doom, but rather prophecies of hope. In this, the end of the world means more about letting go of fears, ego and attachments, and being open to the fullness of the freedom that is promised to us through our Divine Source.
If this then is the end of the world, Bring It On!