OPINION: If the Mayan predictions are true, then this is the last Michael Laws column that you are ever going to read. This time next week, we will either be discovering if there really is life after death, or in the midst of an undefined Apocalypse.
The older one gets, the less frightening this proposition. Each generation is born with the conceit that the world has been made especially for them. It's like sex: each generation of youth is absolutely convinced that their discovery is unique. That their newfound sensual wonder could not possibly have been made available for their parents. Ooh, yuck.
Yes, but the elderly might have their revenge. The earth is going to end and at least they have had the balance of their lives. And being the last human generation: that's almost as special as being the first.
The Mayans are not the first religious culture to proclaim the world's end. We Christians have quite a good line on mankind's mortality too. Most religions do. And there are no shortage of preachers who proclaim that doom to be soon.
I well remember being in Dunedin, as an Otago undergraduate, when a congregation of Elim Pentecostals literally headed for the hills, to await the fiery end. They went on successive Saturdays, as I recall, and froze. Just not to death.
Yes, but the Mayans have given us all an excuse to daydream. What would happen if the 21st day of December is humanity's last? What would we do? What are the last acts we might attempt, the last conversations we would have?
It is a measure of my stage in life that I could only think of being with my kids. I'm sure that I am not unique in suggesting that the family - and the youngest members of that family - would drive our preparations and actions.
Others would go the hedonist way. Drink, drugs and sex would feature and very probably some combination of all three.
Then there would be the devout trying to create a theological lifeboat. Currently deserted churches would be packed as a supernatural insurance policy against natural disaster.
Personally I would be fascinated by how many people stay at their posts, from the prime minister to the Police. Whether parking meter attendants would still be writing tickets and Inland Revenue still writing letters. My pick would be that many would find an inner stability in external order and routine. There will still be traffic cops. And boy racers.
Despite this Mayan millennialism being our daydream of the day (I have another about winning the Lotto jackpot and how I would spend it - the first $10 million was really easy), it's still an interesting exercise in bedrock us. What's personally important, and what's not.
Chances are there will be a 22 December. And that we will still need to buy Christmas presents and entertain those relatives that we know just must be adopted.
But the Mayans have made us think. What if? That's a pause we all need.
- Sunday Star Times