Toronto is getting ever colder and wetter here at the start of November. We’ve just caught the outer edge of Hurricane Sandy, and though there have been a few downed trees (and one tragic death as a result of flying debris, not far, in fact, from where I live), we are mostly intact here in Southern Ontario, though sending prayers to those south and east of us.
If you’re at all plugged into pop culture, it’s kind of hard not to think – even just for a minute, even not-quite-seriously – about all those disaster movies. You’ve probably seen at least one: 2012 (2009), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), The Perfect Storm (2000). These, and dozens (if not hundreds) more, inhabit the popular imagination, reflecting our more primal (or morbid) fears and desires.
They answer our question: What will the end of the world look like?
And I have to admit, from the safety of my apartment last night, I listened to the 90 KPH winds buffeting my building as I read online coverage of the deluge in Brooklyn and along the eastern seaboard, and wondered: What if this is what the end of the world looks like?
I suspect that this rather trivializes the very real suffering of those more directly affected by the storm; those in Haiti, Cuba, and Virginia might have a few choice things to say about me pondering the hypothetical end of the world while they wonder whether they will have a home to return to once the storm blows over. But I think it’s human nature to consider the bigger picture, what it all means, especially if you’ve grown up in a tradition, like Judaism, that includes stories about the acharit ha-yamim (the end of days), and the widespread idea of natural disasters having “meaning” borne of life in a cultural climate ever more influenced by evangelical Christianity (and actual climate change).
When bad things happen, whether on a personal or societal (or even global) level, it gives most of us cause to take a long hard look (or quick reactionary glance, depending on disposition) at our lives. It’s like a spur-of-the-moment Ten Days of Repentance. The High Holy Days: Pop Quiz edition. If shit got “really real: tomorrow, how would I look back on my life? What might I have done differently? Who would I want to speak to, now, and what would I want to say?
To whichever eschatological conclusions these thoughts lead me, I can say with some certainty that they are probably less important than the concerns of those in Sandy’s wake, dealing with the aftermath of what’s come thus far, and preparing for what’s to come. My thoughts and prayers are with them.