Slouching Towards the Millennium

Slouching Towards the Millennium

As the century draws to a close and the millennium slouches towards us, our culture shudders in its fitful, fevered slumber. I imagine that even without the current Y2K dilemma, our minds would summon something to fret over. Our Christian heritage has a rich legacy of paranoia and fear that not even this fetish over decades and years can compare to. I wonder, if not for this Y2K fiasco, what would we choose to obsess over?

Of all the malformed beasts, accidents, and horrors we have collected in our psychic menageries, which one of these would spring to light? Certainly, there are those among us who harbor secret desires to see marauding aliens provide the apocalypse. Even my loan officer confessed to having lived for 6 years in New Mexico awaiting the arrival of the aliens. How many others long to be visited by aliens or see their neighbors reduced to thickening streams of goo by death rays?

However, there are other ways to daydream about the end of the world. There is no shortage of individuals who obsess over genetic experiments gone awry. Pay attention to any newscast for an extended period of time, and you will certainly see a piece on the “scientific abomination” known as genetic engineering. This dread assumes Biblical proportions as various ethicists, clergy and scientists lick their lips at the thought of the seven-horned beast springing from the geneticist’s lab. Their minds become clouded by images of two-headed babies, bat-faced sheep, or infants being suckled with blood.

Still others prefer natural apocalypses. These types gravitate to footage of rockslides, earthquakes, floods and famines. Of course, everyone has their pet holocaust: some prefer the cleansing power of wildfire whereas others ponder an earth scoured clean by pestilence. There are others who watch the heavens for the devil’s hammer; they await a sudden impact of an asteroid or meteor.

As the curtain descends on our century, the destruction that Y2K portends is of a mundane sort. Seen in contrast with the above examples, a digital glitch grinding the world to an economic halt is altogether passe. It offers a sad commentary that we, spiritual paupers, prefer to obsess about our bank accounts, coffeemakers, and having enough power to surf the Internet instead of our quality of life. I prefer the Apocalypse of St. John to that of Bill Gates any day of the week. However, it looks as if T.S. Eliot was right: the world will end with a whimper.

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