FAITH IN INDONESIA

FAITH IN INDONESIA
The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

666

BEWARE: YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED
© Duncan Graham 2006

Did you feel beastly when you got up this morning? That’s not surprising for today’s date reads as 6/6/06. Drop the 0 and there you have it – the Mark Of The Beast!

Still bemused? That means you haven’t been cavorting in the blogsphere recently, a zone throbbing with awful predictions from those who put their trust in numbers.

Forget Y2K and the millennium clock. Remember 31 December 1999? Come midnight and IT systems would go into meltdown around the globe. Planes would tumble from the stratosphere as their computer-controlled autopilots went dormant.

This is far more serious because it invokes the hand of God – not man. This is Merapi-style fire and brimstone stuff, not soldering irons and silicone chips.

There’s also megabytes of comment from cyberspace sceptics who think it’s all a truckload of bunkum – but we’ll ignore them. As my colleagues on tabloid newspapers are won’t to say – don’t let the facts spoil a good story.

The genesis for this fear starts in the Bible where the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13, verse 18 reads:

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight let him calculate the number of the beast for it is man’s number. His number is 666.

Ever since then doomsday seers have been looking for The Sign – presumably so they can be well prepared, commit some debauchery before they lose the chance or cash in their life insurance policies and have a spree.

They’ve even found it on consumer product bar codes. Apparently 1010011 is the binary number of the beast. Watch for it on your next tube of skin whitener.

Ever wondered why Bill Gates is so rich? Well his real name is William Henry Gates 111. Convert this to computer codes and the number adds to 666. The Antichrist, no less! And you thought he was just a smart human being with a strong sense of philanthropy.

The idea of microchipping every newborn babe which some crazed politician (the standard type) proposes on a slow news day is certain proof that the mark of the beast will be fulfilled. And isn’t the web address prefix www Hebrew for 666?

Loonies are not the only ones with an eye on the calendar. Commerce is right in there ready to make a killing, whoops, profit, before man and mammon cease to exist.

Moviemaker 20th Century Fox is releasing an update of its classic film The Omen, first shown 30 years ago. The Omen 666 will open on … Well I’m not going to promote a flick I plan to flick.

As the Bible says – this calls for wisdom. I know men are beasts. Enough women have told me that over the years, though they’ve usually recanted during breakfast. But let’s apply a bit of logic to the formula.

A third century copy of the New Testament is said to have 616 as the dreadful digits.

Heaven forbid that the Bible is wrong. Maybe those transcribing monks got careless with their calligraphy. Imagine one bitter winter’s night in a medieval monastery. Gaunt figures pore over parchments. The beeswax splutters. The gnarled fingers tremble. The goose quill slips and one becomes six. Or six, one.

For the penmen a hieroglyphic hiccup. For us modern types – a typo.

Purists believe the calendar started 2006 years ago. They’re out of date. It’s only been around since the 16th century. Before that was the error-prone Julian calendar and before that a dog’s breakfast of days and months added at will.

So maybe today is not the real 666 as predicted. That date is yet to come. When? Consult the entrails next time you buy a chicken.

Finally some good news for all our Muslim readers. Not to worry – today is 9 / 5 / 1427 on the Islamic calendar with not a 6 in sight. Unless I add all the digits, divide by 9, add 5, subtract … Oh, what the hell.

(Beastnote: There are 666 words in this story.)

(First published in The Jakarta Post 5 June 06)

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