This has been the last full week of school for my kiddos this year and they have pretty mixed feelings about it. On one hand they’re looking forward to fun days at the pool, family vacation, and the more relaxed vibe of summer. They’ll be able to stay up a little longer and sleep in a little later, and then there will be summer camps and trips to visit grandparents and all kinds of fun. My oldest son who has been counting down the months, weeks, days, and now hours is ready for it.
But for my youngest son, the end of the school year might as well be the end of the world. He’s shed a few tears these last couple of weeks. It’s been a really great second grade year with an absolutely wonderful teacher and even though we love our school and I am confident that his third grade experience will be great, too, he’s not been easy to convince. Transitions are hard for him and the end of the school year is one step closer to the unknown.
Really, I don’t think his perspective is all that unusual because throughout human history, there has been a recurring obsession with one looming transition in the fate of humanity: the end of the world.
According to Wikipedia (surely the most reliable source of information regarding all things eschatological), there have been approximately 148 failed end-of-the-world predictions since people started to realize it might be fun to count them. According to other “experts” there may be as many as 400 end-of-the-world predictions in all of recorded human history. Either way, that’s a lot.
But don’t worry, because Wikipedia also helpfully points out that “no predicted apocalyptic events have occurred so far.” What a relief!
The obsession with the end of it all stretches back at least as far as the Assyrians. According to this 2009 Smithsonian article, a clay tablet dating to 2800 B.C states: “Our Earth is degenerate in these later days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book and the end of the world is evidently approaching.”
Personally, I suspect the translation might be a little rough, either that or the “prophecy” has been misunderstood by scholars and the stone tablets really is nothing more than the discarded notes of a popular Assyrian standup comedian. It also seems likely that the existence of said “tablet” may have actually been made up in 1979.
Still, there’s something that keeps us humans guessing that the end is upon us. Whether it comes from religious conviction, scientific understanding, or from societal pessimism, our fate seems always to speed on toward some sort of transition and that fills us with a little bit of anxiety.
And just because the end has failed to arrive maybe as many as 400 times, we may not be out of the woods just yet because there are currently at least 15 predictions open for consideration, from the interpretation of the series of blood moon eclipses in 2014 and 2015 that places the end of the world in September of this year (perhaps not coincidentally, just after the start of my son’s third grade year) to the insistence of numerous truly alarmist scientists who insist the sun will consume the earth a mere 5 billion years from next Tuesday, give or take an hour or two.
So perhaps the end is upon us, but I’m not going to worry about it too much. Most likely I have some fun summer days with my kiddos to look forward to. And despite the tears of yesterday, this morning my son told me he’s decided even though he’s sad second grade is ending, he isn’t going to be afraid of third grade, because, “[He does] this ever year, and then the next year turns out the be the funnest ever.”
As we plunge into summer break next week, it may be the end of the world as he knows it, but, all in all, I think he feels fine.