PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 2:57am

Rumours of demise greatly exaggerated


Bonny Schoonakker has worked as a journalist in South Africa, Europe and, now, Asia, reporting on war and peace, and everything in between, for more than 30 years. Despite being in newspapers for an uncomfortable length of time, he feels he still has a lot to learn and cannot shake off the suspicion that you are only as good as your next story, no matter how good your last one. However, he does know that truth is a lie’s best cover, and remains constantly on the alert.

If you can read this, so far so good, we seem to have survived yet another apocalypse. Congratulations.

Not that I ever lost any sleep over it, but my concerns about this day were first aroused in December 1989, when I received for my birthday a book about the Mayan prophecies.

Back then December 21, 2012, was so far away that only Mel Gibson and the truly paranoid thought about Mayan warnings. Closer at hand were more pressing matters, such as living in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, whether that nice Mr Mandela would be let of out jail and whether the Springboks would get to play in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

What truly impresses me about reaching this day, however, is not dodging a bullet that the Mayans saw coming, but the fact that it is my father's 85th birthday.

Seven years ago, unlike the Mayan apocalypse, this was not something we would have predicted witnessing, thanks to an alarming medical diagnosis. On hearing the news I rushed back home, to play what I thought would be my last round of golf with the old man, and returned to this city bummed out and wondering about a looming abyss of sadness.

It turned out that the diagnosis was pessimistic, if not alarmist. To this day my father is still out there on the fairways, shooting birdies twice a week and racking up the holes-in-one. He is now the oldest member of a club which he joined as the youngest so long ago that it was in pre-Mayan times.

Much of the hype about today, of course, is derived not from the Mayans but popular culture's obsession with apocalyptic annihilation. Give Hollywood a whiff of a pretext upon which to imagine destruction on a vast scale and see it grasped with indecent haste. These "blockbusters" are given credence by the fact the world will indeed shut down one day, according to the unshakeable principle that everything that has a beginning has an end.

So, on the tentative observation that the world appears not to be ending today, herewith some new predictions - that the time left to us will rush by far too quickly, that things will rarely be as bad as we fear, that the really bad stuff will take us by surprise and that life's very transience will make it so precious. Happy birthday, dad.


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