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EVERYTHING BUT: Friday fright (2)

Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT: Friday fright (2)

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But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father. – Matthew 24:36
A preacher told me that while I had stimulated some thought and discussion re Friday, December 21, I had helped to plant a sizeable portion of fear in the hearts of fellow Barbadians.
If I did, I beg the terrified to pardon me, and the merciful Lord to forgive me. But end of the world theories can be intriguing; it’s like experiencing Night Of The Living Dead: blood-curdling, but riveting.
The preacher told me it had really all been foretold; that Jesus had warned that “ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars” and that we were to see to it that we were not troubled by them, “for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet, for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows”. (See Matthew 24: 6 to 8.)
It seems these crises of alarming proportions and complexities have boasted horrifying regularity since the last century: persistent turmoil in the Middle East, the Arab Spring, and nuclear threat, thanks to Iran and North Korea; food shortages with millions dying on the African and Asian continents, and now exacerbated by economic meltdown; dwindling species and food crops through environmental mismanagement and madness; pandemic flu, HIV and other viruses by unhealthy living; and unprecedented tremors, record tsunamis and superstorms, compliments of the erratic weather patterns by man’s hand.
Maybe, that is why the visionary Mayans figured it would, or had to, all end by December 21, 2012.
No wonder some of us are sold on this march to imminent cataclysm; to the real Ground Zero: Earth’s grand finale encoded in the Mayan long calendar at Christmas 2012. I should therefore take care of my soul now, my preaching friend says. It would be a terribly searing experience having to burn twice: on earth and in Hell.
I must confess I cannot stand the heat. Hot rooms, hot baths and sunny beaches are anathema to me. While others shiver in the air-conditioned offices these days, I delight in the chill.
My aversion to heat may have been prompted by the photograph of a painting I saw in a book when I was a mere child. Reverend Oliver Haynes, having recognized my voraciousness for reading, had lent me that art publication – many of several books advanced to me.
He had even lent me one replete with cartoons poking fun at priests. I learnt then that these holy men were only human – with much the same weaknesses as Samson, Solomon and King David.
But it was this Last Judgement painting by the Dutch Renaissance master Rogier van der Weyden that got me all anti-heat. Here was van der Weyden’s depiction, in oil, of a stream of terrified, screaming and shrieking naked men and women begging for a quenching and a downpour all on the way into the pits of Hell.
As I gazed in fright and exasperation, feeling the burn of these wretched souls – supposedly getting their just deserts – I swore I would forever be true to the Almighty, following his every commandment. Then naive me thought I might take consolation in the fact that the lines of van der Weyden’s damned were all white folks; that seemingly Blacks after all wouldn’t go there.
This may have had something to do subconsciously with my choosing to be a journalist over a minister of the cloth, much to the chagrin of my mother and Reverend Haynes.
It can’t be gainsaid that the end time is arresting stuff. Grant you, it is like Days Of Our Lives: the height of drama, but a paucity of progress – transgressions, hopes and disappointments in an apparent never-ending cycle.
One thing we can draw from it, though, whether we be Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, believer or atheist, is the one thing we have in common: profound trepidation over what could be expected finally.
We will still fear the unknown if or when we get past this Friday. Simple!
• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist.