The Great Mythology, by Rich Paschall
Well, we survived the Red Moon or Blood Moon or whatever you were calling it. It was a close call as to whether we would see the end of the world due to the cloud cover here in Illinois, but the wind blew them out-of-the-way just in time. So a few neighbors and I stood on the corner looking up into the sky waiting for a red moon and the end of the world.
For this time of year, it was a mild night here in the Midwest. I was ready for the trip to the great beyond dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. I really was unsure how to dress for such an auspicious occasion, but in Chicagoland, we dress for 90 degree weather starting at 60 degrees, just in case we never get that warm. It was 70 so it was good for a September night. I did not carry anything but binoculars as I thought I should see the moon and whatever else was coming.
One neighbor was reporting the Chicago Cubs scores as we waited for the inevitable. We both agreed it would be a shame if the world were to end before the Cubs made it to the World Series. After all, this is the year in the “Future” when the Cubs were supposed to win, according to that great historical film, Back to the Future.
One woman, carrying a drink in each hand, paused on the corner to see the moon. Her husband trailed a block behind with a camera. They were headed to the park and the wide open spaces. They did not want any trees to block their view of the apocalypse. It was the “tetrad” and that surely signaled the end.
“Can I borrow your binoculars a moment?” she asked as she set a drink on the side-walk.
“Of course,” I said since I already had a good look at the dark orange ball in the sky with just a bright sliver around one edge.
“Oh, wow,” she exclaimed before handing back my favorite binoculars and heading to the park. It was almost time for the full lunar eclipse so that meant no time for her to chit-chat with neighbors.
“Can you see anything?” one man asked as he walked by. “Yes, It’s right there,” I responded and pointed up to the southeast. He did not look up, however. He just kept walking.
Two small boys and a bit taller girl with a dog ran down to the corner. The man with the baseball scores asked the kids if they had seen the moon, and then pointed toward the red ball. The smallest one did not look up but stared at us instead.
“How old are you?” I asked the little guy. “Six,” he replied.
“You will not get a chance to see a red moon again until you are 24 years old,” I told him. He did not seem to care. He was momentarily more fascinated with us staring at the sky than anything else. Soon all the children were running off in the direction from which they came.
When they reach the next full lunar eclipse with a red hue of light bending around the earth, the children will be adults and hearing about a possible end of the world. Preachers will predict the end, talk show hosts will announce doom, clever hucksters will write books and give speeches about the apocalypse and people will post nonsense on facebook or whatever is the social media engine of the day.
In ancient Greek and Roman times it was understandable how the great mythologies arose. There was no social media. In fact, there was no media at all. Nothing was bringing reliable news from one location to another.
There was no science. There was no logical explanation for what people heard in the clouds or saw in the sky. Thunder could be an argument among the gods. Lightning bolts could be tossed down by one god doing battle with another. Storms at sea could be the result of Neptune being upset with sailors. There was just no telling what could be happening up on Mount Olympus or up in the clouds.
Without any firm knowledge, one explanation could sound just as reasonable as another. There was no way to disprove the great mythological stories. If they included real locals or real happenings, who was to say the explanations were not real as well? A myth was just like reality TV or the Republican debates. If you did not know better, who’s to say it was not the truth.
In the present day, however, does it strike you strange that stories that are easily disproved find believers around every corner. In ancient times, the appearance of a red moon no one had ever seen before might signal an ominous event to those who did not have a better explanation. But what about today? When we can find out how often these lunar events happen, or how many times the doomsday predictions were wrong, why do people continue to believe such nonsense?
When I looked at doomsday predictions from the middle of the last century to the present, I see I have survived quite a few. With any luck at all, Zeus willing, I guess I will survive a few more.
When those children I saw last Sunday become adults, I wonder if they will believe in the phony predictions and fake facebook memes, or will they finally come into an educated era.