Why do we want our World to End?

Apocalypse

by Jayaram V

In the universe that we know surely, the earth is the only habitable planet. Yet, why do many people expect the world to end so that they can go to heaven? Why do many people like popular literature and modern science fiction that deal with apocalypse and end of the world scenarios? Almost all religions expect it to happen at sometime in future. Many even want it to happen in their lifetimes. They are so distraught by the evil they see around them that they want it to happen immediately.

People are instinctively drawn to end of the world themes. Occasionally we hear about people predicting the end of the world on specific dates. They would tell you that they have spoken to God or God has revealed to them through a dream or through the symbolism of a scripture that the end of the world is coming. Interestingly, people keep believing them, even after they are proven wrong. There are a few online businesses on the Internet, where people can buy food that do not expire for 25 years or more, so that they can use it for survival in extenuating circumstances. You might have also heard of homes that are built in the underground, where people can safely live for years after a nuclear war without suffering from scarcity or contamination from a possible nuclear fallout.

The illusion of destruction

There are many pious and devoted people (with an unforgiving heart probably) who want God to manifest upon earth and render divine justice by brining this world to an end. The truth is although we live in an impermanent and unstable world, the sum of our existence is a constant and cannot be permanently destroyed. You may destroy the arrangement or configuration of the parts but not the whole of it. You may temporarily destroy an object or a specific state, but the sum of the elements that make it possible cannot be destroyed. For all practical purposes, destruction is but a transformative process, and there is no guarantee that what you destroy now may not reappear in future in another form or another state. Whether it exists or not exists, the sum of the universe is a constant because there is nothing else into which it can disappear forever. As Einstein suggested, it is true with even Time as a dimension.

It is true even with regard to the elements of life, and with good and evil. You cannot destroy any of them totally. You may temporarily transform them, deactivate them, or hide them, but cannot totally remove them from the sum of earth's existence. The impermanence of this world is not caused by any destruction but by the permutation and combination of five basic processes, namely, creation, preservation, expression, concealment, and transformation. They may in turn happen by evolution, involution, association, disassociation, expansion, contraction, projection, withdrawal, illusion, or superimposition. All existence, or manifestation, is a sum of the aforesaid five basic and inherent processes. They exist in you and everywhere else. They are responsible for your dreams and hopes, as well as for your failures and successes. In Hinduism, we attribute them to God as the source, and consider them His five most basic potencies or manifestations. They manifest in the world through your actions, the actions of others, or through the action of God, Fate or Nature.

The end of the world themes in science fiction

When you watch sci-fi movies that have been made in the last few decades or read science fiction novels, you get the impression that human beings entertain some kind of death wish. It appears that if they are endowed with the power of the Creator, they would probably destroy that world every day, just for entertainment. Our scriptures say that God creates the world for his enjoyment and keeps them in good order so that life goes on for a longtime. However, it seems if we have a similar power, many creative writers would prefer to see our planet going though apocalyptic phases of destruction on a regular basis.

There are quite a number of movies released in the last few years with apocalyptic or post apocalyptic themes, and end of the world scenarios, which lead to this conclusion. You get this impression when you watch movies like Oblivion, Divergent, Transcendence, Pacific Rim, World War Z, Day the World Ended, Interstellar, Ender's game, Total Recall, War of the Worlds, Hunger Games, The Road, Earth 2100, the Terminator series, WALL-E, After Earth, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Book of Eli, etc. While it may be entertaining to watch such movies on a wide screen, it will produce enormous pain and suffering for the humanity even if a little of it happens in the real world.

Such movies are part of our popular culture because they excite our imagination and basic instincts. They appeal to our basic fear of survival and our collective vulnerability as a species to death and destruction. People can easily understand them and relate to them, even if they look far-fetched as they remind them of the precarious nature of human life in a hostile universe, and the forces that can potentially upset our very existence upon earth and end it in ways that cannot be stopped.

Most of the end of the world movies also reflect our common and even simplistic notions of good and evil. In them the evil of destruction is unleashed either by a strange combination of unavoidable circumstances (fate) or by the invasion or interference of evil aliens with formidable powers (extraneous) or by the very evil that is inherently present in humans, which require the intervention of super human effort by brave warriors who transcend their natural weaknesses.

Whether it is the ancient legend of Manu or the adventure of Noah, or the modern science fiction stories of the end of the world, the positive element of such themes is the indefatigable nature of human instinct for survival. In the movies and stories, the main protagonists are brave and farsighted people who endure difficulties, but do not give up. They stand up to formidable enemies in testing conditions despite their limitations and emotional baggage, and save the planet or the human race from annihilation.

While we cannot full understand the reason why many are drawn to apocalyptic themes, one reason could be that people engage in such fantasies to resonate with their positive strengths and abilities and feel assured about their future and continuity upon earth. Despite the grim, apocalyptic themes one finds in such movies, one cannot miss noticing in them the optimism and heroism that people display as they adapt and survive in most testing circumstances to overcome obstacles and challenges.

The movies thus serve a good purpose. They reassure people that humans can resolve difficult problems and survive in difficult conditions. They also open your mind to the impermanence of the world, and the dangers that are inherent in the progress of our civilization. They warn you of possible outcomes that may happen if the human beings collectively fail to act responsibly or remain united in their effort to keep the planet safe and habitable. Perhaps, in a chaotic and perplexing world, we need themes of wars, tragedies, struggles, and great human dramas to reassure and reinvent ourselves and find purpose, direction, and determination in choosing our aims and performing our tasks

Suggestions for Further Reading

Introduction to Hinduism
Know the richness, diversity, history and traditions of Hinduism, the oldest living religion of the world

Brahman
Know about Brahman, the Highest and Supreme God of Hinduism. Buy Now!

Selected Upanishads
Translation of 14 Upanishads. Length: 32 pages

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Translation of one of the largest Upanishads Length: 206 pages.

The Chandogya Upanishad
Translation of the Chandogya Upanishad. Length:218 Pages

The Bhagavadgita Complete Translation
With Word to word translation and commentary. Comprehensive and unique.
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