On the End of the World

The World’s End is a pub on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. It derives its name from being near the place where old Edinburgh’s city wall was. Back in the day (over 300 years ago), if a person left the town, he or she would have to pay a tax to re-enter. Since poorer people could not afford to pay this tax, they therefore could not leave the city’s confines. Thus, for these people, their world ended at the city gate. That is one definition of the end of the world. The other definition is one in which the world itself comes to an end, and that’s what we will look at in this story.

Climate change. Natural disasters. Food and basic needs shortages. Disease. War. A large movement of refugees and displaced persons. Permanent supply chain interruption. These are the components of the end of the world’s existence, or, at least, the end of the world as a particular civilization might know it.

But take this description of signs the world is ending:

“Morality is no longer important to people. Children lack respect for what advantages they have or for what the adults in their lives have done for them. Younger people have no desire to do an honest day’s work any more. All people live for now days is to accumulate more things, more furniture, more land, more possessions. Things and the pursuit of them have replaced affection for other humans in the hearts of most people today.”

Sounds like much of what we hear about our society today, doesn’t it?

Would it surprise you to learn that in almost every major civilization since the dawn of history, the same sentiments have been expressed about the dissolution of the society of the day? It’s true. Much of what is described above that sounds so true to today’s western society was actually written over 3500 years ago by a scribe in Mesopotamia, what is now Iraq, on a tablet and discovered by archaeologists in the past century. The Mayans (remember that “end of the world” calendar scare a few years ago?), the ancient Chinese, African folklore, Celtic tradition–they all and more have shared similar complaints about the “modern” world.

In other words, not much has changed in the human condition in millennia.

And it’s also true that, like every other civilization and empire and nation, our modern world will give way to the next modern world–whatever that will look like. In many ways, we all experience something similar to those residents of auld Edinburgh, and we come face to face with our own individual World’s End–the end of our days, our careers, our relationships, our health, our living arrangements, and our lives.

And the world will go on as it always has–world without end.


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