End of the World

In my mythology class we’re currently studying myths of destruction.  My favorite that we’ve read is Ragnarok, where the gods go to war and everything burns until the cycle of life and death is restarted.  Stories like that show the things that were important or terrifying to the people who told them.

We still tell those stories, too, but in different ways.  The concept is still relevant to us.  Maybe it’s because we sometimes wonder if the end of the world is really as far away as we hope it is.  In our books and films, the world ends because of zombies or aliens or natural disasters or the technology we create turning on us, and I don’t think our real fear is so much those things as that we’ll bring on ourselves our own destruction–and then there’s the question of what happens afterwards.

There was another shooting early this morning, at Northern Arizona University.  One dead, three wounded, and with the memory of the Oregon shooting still fresh in everyone’s minds.  I don’t know what the answer to fix problems like that is.  No one does, really.  Whether we need more armed guards at school campuses or better ways to find and treat mental illnesses or just be better at teaching our young ones the value of human life, we have to try something.  I’m not sure more gun laws will help, though–Having guns at school is illegal generally, and it hasn’t helped.  Many mind-altering substances are illegal and still get used.  Drunk driving is illegal and it still kills people.  And even if we could get the firearms gone, there would still be knives and crowbars and homemade bombs to defend against.  We just can’t stop all the ways we have of hurting one another.

I’m not saying all the attacks on schools lately are a sign of the apocalypse.  But this morning’s shooting was an end for at least one person.

Whether you believe in heaven or reincarnation or that the things that make you you are gone forever when your body dies, death is still a scary thing to all of us.   The last thing most people want is for it to come early, and it’s the same on larger scales of nations and cultures and planets.

I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know how to stop our culture from heading in the violent direction it’s been going in.  I don’t know how to stop all the pain and sadness and violence the world is experiencing.  I’ve got nothing.

Maybe I have something.

We can’t stop everyone else, but individually we can stop ourselves, from harming others, from blinding ourselves to problems.  Individually, we can remember that people are people.  Whatever their religion, race, or whatever other differences they might have, they are people and they are human and their lives have value, and we have no right to invalidate that.  We have to realize that however we might disagree with one another, we all have reasons for believing and behaving as we do, and as long as we don’t hurt one another with those beliefs, we can try to understand them.

Hopefully, we’ll understand quickly enough.

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