The Ends of the Earth
πέρατα της γης
pérata ti̱s gi̱s
Isaiah 41: 9
“Thou whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the uttermost parts thereof, and said unto thee: 'Thou art My servant, I have chosen thee and not cast thee away.”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The title of this weeks column, “The Ends of the Earth,” has, of course, a couple of different meanings, or a “double entendre,” an antiquated affectation which English speaking users picked up from the French (often with an indelicate suggestion), though the term is all but meaningless in modern French, as they say double sens (sens, like our word 'sense', though with the translation of “meaning” or “understanding”). In literature and speech we often use the expression to mean every nook and cranny on our planet, but it can also be understood to the various ways that Mom Terra may meet her demise. One is idiomatic and the other is a sad list of possible global catastrophes which could destroy our planet and all life upon it. Gosh, I seem to pick really depressing topics to explore sometimes!
Last week, Microsoft founder and billionaire extraordinaire, Bill Gates, reflected on the likeliest candidate for the most serious threat to humanity, saying, "We've created, in terms of spread, the most dangerous environment that we've ever had in the history of mankind." He believes a pandemic, a Spanish flu–like disease, unleashed on the modern world would kill more than 33 million people in 250 days. As an Army brat, I remember being told to hide under my desk during grade-school in case of a nuclear war, but today our situation is most complicated by radical biotechnology and industrial pollution. Yet, those are but a couple of man-made possibilities which could wipe us all out... We have to remember the 1998 asteroid-heading-toward-Earth film, Armageddon, and Billy Bob Thornton's scary lines (as the NASA character 'Dan Truman'): "There'd be an overnight breakdown of basic social services, world-wide. Rioting. Mass religious hysteria. Total chaos. You can imagine. Basically the worst parts of the bible."
And, extending the eventual to maximum inevitable, we've got our sun, Sol, expanding to a 'red giant stage and engulfing (or vaporizing, burning up, destroying, etc.) the Earth in 7.6 billion years. Though this prospective eventuality has its nay-Sayers who 'calculate' the Earth being pulled back away from the Red Sun Sol by some gravitational means I'm not sure is good math. See the Scientific American article at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-sun-will-eventually-engulf-earth-maybe/.
The anti-vaccination movement has and continues to hurt us. In fact, several states have eliminated the religious/philosophical exception clause to allow their children to skip the standard requirement of vaccinations, with Vermont joining the list just a week or so ago. The movement, which the physically beautiful and intellectually dumb-as-rocks, celebrity spokesperson, Jenny McCarthy, has claimed vaccinations are responsible for autism and a variety of other ailments. There's a number of peer-reviewed journal papers which debunk any connection between autism and vaccines, but ...the stupid will follow their own. Personally, I'm both proud and horrified over a recent statement by the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who, in answer to the anti-vaxers, and the recent revival and spreading of measles, actually hoped things get a lot worse so the stupid anti-vaxers can see dead bodies in the street and know they've made a horribly tragic mistake by not accepting science. Gosh, what an unabashedly realistic and depressing thing for a respectable head of one of our government's most important agencies (as well as the rest of the world) to say! When the CDC released a campaign to make folks aware of proper preparedness in case of a natural disaster and based on a metaphorical 'Zombie Apocalypse', most regarded it as cute, clever, and then ignored it.
Makes sense, but lately that doesn't seem America's way...
I definitely prefer the poetic meaning of “the ends of the earth” as used by folks looking for a loved one or seeking justice. Searching for a good cause is wicked better than considering the many ways our planet or all life on this blue marble could be extinguished. Yeah, I really need to watch more comedies and leave off viewing the movie gore (oh, and Human Centipede 3 has just been released) and the television thrillers with the sickos, autopsies, and basically depressing themes.
Yes, it's a good thing some countries are designating monies to watch the skies for big rocks in the sky which could cause us much damage, though we still live in a world were Saudi Arabia can buy some nukes from Pakistan in case Iran gets too uppity. The deceased tyrant ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, offered a million dollars to buy a nuke, but no one would sell him one. Me thinks we got lucky on that one...
The Darwinian “Survival of the Fittest” is at play, of course, with corporate greed, pharmaceutical recklessness, military and arms producing poor judgments, and a global case of the blind leading the blind. Yeah, it's a miracle we made it this far... One would (and should) be motivated to continue to seek out increasing our chances of survival by responsibly addressing war, disease, work harder at getting off this planet before something really bad happens. It's Dr. Tim Leary's 'Smile' scenario all over again:
Space Migration plus Increased Intelligence equals Life extension.
We travel, search, investigate this and that, while in the back of our heads we know that our time is limited and may be over sooner rather than later, but will definitely end at some point. To the ends of the earth I hope for peace and prosperity... However, admitting my arrogant humanity, I also hope the mean folks step off the wrong curb at the wrong time and leave this planet a tad prematurely. Have a nice week!
Martin Behaim's 1492 globe made several months before Columbus returned from discovering the 'New World'.
Glad the flat-earth theory never caught on,