The world has been ending for thousands of years. Early Christians believed the end would happen in their lifetime and that the Roman Empire represented the last gasp of humanity.
As it turns out, it was one of the first gasps in the birth of the modern world in which we live. In the year 1000, medieval millennialists nervously wondered if the addition of a digit to the way we count our years would herald the end. It would seem it didn't. A thousand years later people wondered if the change in that digit would result in a mass computer failure that would reverberate around the world and cause a major disruption of society to the point of the world regressing to the stone age. Didn't quite happen that way.
In fact, in the hundreds of millennial predictions, sects, and beliefs that have surfaced since the death of Christ, and before, not a single one has come to pass. The world may seem close to the abyss, but it never quite makes that last step needed to cross the edge. In fact, it often seems in hindsight that it was never on that last step at all, but more than a day's walk away.
Now we approach the next round of dire predictions. From the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012, to the last Pope prophesized by St. Malachi to come after the current one, to religious-based predictions that the end must be near as the current state of affairs in the world must be omens signaling the end, we unfortunately will never have the answer until the world actually decides to take the last baby step off the cliff.
Oddly, Nostradamus seems the odd man out in this orgy of prediction that seems to be gripping the world of those who study things paranormal. He doesn't predict the end of the world until thousands of years from now, if ever.
I can't help but wonder why the end of the world preoccupies us so much. For all the predictions and doomsday talk, Chances are, we'll never see it coming. It could come in the form of an asteroid impact, or even a supernova silently bombarding us with lethal doses of radiation. Or it could be one of the religious predictions that comes true, but in this case, it might not be such a good idea to try to read the mind of God and blow the big secret before the almighty has a chance to finish his plan. You might just invite his judgment for such a thing.
I think the reason is psychological. Some need an order to dismiss the chaos of world affairs. It becomes comforting, perhaps, to see a great earthquake with a horrendous loss of life and see it in the context that it means something. We watch the economic troubles of today, and maybe it makes more sense for them to be part of the divine plan for the earth's end, rather than mistakes stemming from greed and poor financial infrastructure. The problem is though, we've seen all of this before, and the first time around none of them turned out to be indicative of the end. In fact, the world has been in almost constant calamity for two thousand years, leading many to believe that the time in which they lived were the end times. For most of these people, it wasn't.
I can't say for certain, nor can I say that I hope I'm wrong, but I think it would be prudent for all of us to take all the talk of the end being near with a grain of salt, especially as 2012 approaches, and those on the crazier end of the spectrum start thinking of making up a batch of koolaid. Chances are, these are not the end times, rather they are the times in which we live. When the end does truly come, whether its tomorrow or a thousand years from now, it will likely be inevitable and unchangeable by the time we know about it, and if it is divine in nature, we will be the last beings in the universe that can stop it. So why do we worry so?