Is it coming? Should we fear it?
At 8:30am on September 10th I turned on my radio to hear the moments and activities that preceded what some had predicted to be the end of the world, the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, a 17 mile circular tunnel in which scientists planned to collide particals and recreate some of the conditions present at the creation of the universe.
As is widely known, the fearful were concerned that the high speed collision of particles might result in the formation of a black hole into which the earth, and everything on it, would be sucked. The fearless felt sure that, even if a black hole was created during the experiments, it would be extremely tiny and only last for a very short time.
What had not been made very clear to the public was that the ceremonious switching on of the Large Hadron Collider did not result in a conclusion as to which school of thought had been correct. The switch-on merely tested that a beam could be succesfully sent around the large tubular ring using 1232 special magnets to curve its path. I say merely, I am sure that this is a huge achievement and well worthy of attention and celebration, but there was no percieved danger – from any quarters – of it being the last party on earth.
As for the collision of particles, the potential “end of the world”, that still hasn’t happened. The Large Hadron Collider has been running into some technical difficulties and has been getting repaired. The actual moment when the first collisions take place and the most worried groups of scientists become pleasantly suprised that they can still breathe will not take place until Spring 2009 at the earliest. This whole event has, however, made me want to write a long blog entry about the end of the world.
High speed particle collision is not the only non-violent threat to humanity’s existence. We have already been warned that on March 21st 2014 there is a 1 in 909,000 chance of a giant asteroid called “2003 QQ47” hitting the earth, and in October 2028 a mile-wide rock called “1997 XF11” has a 1 in 1000 chance of striking our planet. There are many small groups of religious or UFO enthusiasts who have also predicted the end of the world and a large number of predictions have already passed without incident, which will hopefully be the case with the Large Hadron Collider. Beyond the scientists, the spiritualists and the ufologists there are a very high number of people who believe that we will eventually destroy our planet, either by war or carelessness. Many look at the troubles in the world and beleieve we are all too selfish to get along, and with modern weapons an inevitable third world war will wipe out all civilization.
Standing prominent among those that predict that the “end of the world as we know it” will come some time are many established religious groups. For religion the cataostrphy, or Armageddon, is not the focus of such teachings, but rather the focus is on what happens after the event. Many Christians, for example, look forward to a time when Jesus wil reign over God’s Kingdom on Earth and…
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” [Isaiah 11:6]
Baha’is also take the view that world peace is not only possible but inevitable. Baha’u’llah foretells of two states of peace, a lesser peace and a most great peace. In the lesser peace the world will recognise the essential unity of the entire human race and will be protected by an internationally governed system of collective security. The most great peace will, as I understand it, come later and be a more spiritually grounded state of peace throughout the planet.
“Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come.” [Baha’u’llah]
Since the day that Samuel Morse sent his first telegram the world has been getting ever smaller, with transport and communication taking place at speeds that could barely be dreamed of a century ago. The United Nations has established itself as a forum that brings all the countries of the world together to discuss major issues, and basic human rights are considered by most to be a cornerstone of civilized society throughout the world. There are several encouraging processes at play in the world, and many Baha’is are actively engaged in some of these.
The view then, of the Baha’i Faith and of other religious groups, is that the end is in sight for this world… but it is the end of the world that none of us like, an end to the world that favours one race or nation over another, an end to the world where weapons are a tool of negotiation, where wealth and poverty are both permitted to reach their worst excesses, an end to the world that so many fear will destroy itself. That world will end, and a more united one will endure in its place.
My personal view (not that I am good at applying it to my own life) is that when something is wrong it needs to be dealt with or the consequences will catch up with you and force you to deal with it, and where laws or systems are in place that favour improving the quality of life for any one individual, race or nation at the expense of another there needs to be a re-adjustment.
The current financial crisis is a case in point. Governments can offer funds to save us from potential disaster but unless the underlying problems that get us into this situation are fixed we will arrive at this point again in the future, and next time it may be too costly for even the wealthiest governments to save the day. We have the chance now to start developing a more sustainable model of global finance, or we can be forced to build a new one from the ground up after a more thorough collapse in the future.
Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, predicted that…
“The process of disintegration must inexorably continue, and its corrosive influence must penetrate deeper and deeper into the very core of a crumbling age. Much suffering will still be required ere the contending nations, creeds, classes and races of mankind are fused in the crucible of universal affliction, and are forged by the fires of a fierce ordeal into one organic commonwealth, one vast, unified, and harmoniously functioning system. Adversities unimaginably appalling, undreamed of crises and upheavals, war, famine, and pestilence, might well combine to engrave in the soul of an unheeding generation those truths and principles which it has disdained to recognize and follow. A paralysis more painful than any it has yet experienced must creep over and further afflict the fabric of a broken society ere it can be rebuilt and regenerated.” [Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 193]
The unity of the human race is never more aparant than in dealing with calamity. The closest I have been to this, thankfully, was after the great gale that swept southern England in October 1987, everybody pulled together to clear fallen trees and get the town back into working order. On television we see people clubbing together to help in disasters, physically and financially, without fear of differences. The task now lies before us to build a society that can function justly at a global level, it is essential to our survival and somewhat inevitable that we will not survive unless we do it. It is a widely held view that no country can survive in complete isolation from the rest of the world, and if the whole planet was was all but destroyed tomorrow such that we all had to build a new civilization from scratch, we would no doubt incorporate principles that recognise equal rights to a good quality of life for every citizen of the planet. The hope has to be that we do not need to be forced to such a drastic starting point before we can find a path to a fairly functioning global society.
Baha’u’llah, the Prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith, left some vision of what first steps might be taken:
“The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories. This will ensure the peace and composure of every people, government and nation. We fain would hope that the kings and rulers of the earth, the mirrors of the gracious and almighty name of God, may attain unto this station, and shield mankind from the onslaught of tyranny. …The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home. These things are obligatory and absolutely essential. It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action…. That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” [Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 248]