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Riding high on the rapture

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According to the Rapture Index, a Dow Jones like measure that's been around for almost a quarter century, we are poised to tie or surpass the limit on signs that the end is near.

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And, if you take their apocalyptic doom list seriously, it really does look like the world is headed for something dire: Israel, war, apostasy, disease, climate, the Anti-Christ (whoever he/she is this week), all of them get high marks this July.

You'd have to be a doorknob to have not gotten wind of the terrible killing underway in the Middle East in Iraq, Syria and now in the Gaza strip. Or, the loss of another Malaysian Airlines plane, this one clearly shot down by somebody. Or, the fact that there are now approximately 41 wars (depending on the source) going on somewhere, right now.

More stories of violent cops killing citizens, deranged murders via trysts a la Craigslist, and the return of potentially deadly Equine Encephalitis to the East Coast filled the headlines before the middle of the week. And even though honey bee deaths were slightly better last year, they were still bad enough that long term survival of the species in North America is not a foregone conclusion. A full 25% of all agricultural products in the U.S. depend on bee pollination.

And then there's that new sinkhole...you know, the one that was discovered in an area of Russia so remote that the name for it can literally be translated "the end of the world."

Well, it's not really a sinkhole, probably an crater created by a methane explosion due to permafrost melting, due, once again to climate change. It's not that the minions of hell are coming out of the bowels of the earth but rather that the minions of hell are all around us.

The news release of that explosion crater cracked open a webwide debate on the spiritual significance of sinkholes generally. Apparently, some folks had been wondering about that for awhile. Are there more "sinkholes" than there used to be? Could the sudden appearance of all these holes in the ground mean something? There are even websites that are collecting accounts and video of these holes in the ground as proof of...the earth eating itself and us alive?

Now granted, the idea of the earth suddenly opening up and swallowing people, houses, forests, streets, etc. whole is pretty frightening. Such an instance is described in the Torah when a guy named Korah challenged Moses' authority. What happened to him and his family has been used as an abject warning against disloyalty and rudeness ever since. The ground opened up with deadly consequences during the 1906 San Francisco and 1964 Anchorage earthquakes and occurs with some frequency in places like Florida. When the bottom fell out and consumed Jeffrey Bush while he was in his bedroom...the whole nation seemed to shudder a bit and with good reason.

We'd like to think that the earth below our feet is solid, dependable, durable, for us. But if it collapses, moves, churns, reveals itself as less than supportive, suddenly everything else seems up for grabs too. Although, perhaps, it always was.

Not all holes in the ground are created equal, nor are they all sinkholes. Some sinkholes have been around for thousands of years and are very stable (examples in slideshow). As indicated, the crater in Russia is not a sinkhole, although it may be evidence of earthly processes that will be just as scary and unforgivable as falling into a bottomless pit. The sinkholes in Kingston, NY and in most other cities, are generally caused by poor rainfall runoff management, bad plumbing, shoddy infrastructure and other forms of human stupidity. Other rural sinkholes can be caused by fracking and mining tunnel collapse, or 'other reasons.'

It's not clear that there is a meaning to sinkholes or that there are any more of them statistically than there have ever been. It may seem like the world is falling apart, but in fact, it probably never was really put together well, or with humans in mind, to begin with.

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