I thought to myself: Is there an alarm or is it an end of day signal?
I am one of the “dinosaurs” who did the compulsory military service (the army). At that time there were two very important sound signals, so important that, after any of them, you were going to do something mandatory. One of the sounds signaled the time to awake and the other, following the melody of “Quiet”, by Nini Rosso, after a theme from Tchaikovsky, announced end of day.
If you heard the cascade of sounds that meant waking up, the next second you had to stand by the bed, ready to take the first orders of the day. Those higher in rank sometimes allowed themselves to sleep for a few extra moments. But for us, soldiers, it was a horrible moment; even now I am terrified by the memories. You didn’t know if things would be easier or more extreme than yesterday; you didn’t know if one of your superiours would make any more or less fun of you and your colleagues that day. What you did know was that something unpleasant, to say the least, was beginning. But when the first chords of the bedtime signal sounded, a kind of warmth enveloped your soul and you knew that it was time to rest. For a little while no one would disturb your thoughts or sleep.
I have been listening closely for about a month or so, and I still do not know if the signal all of us are getting is a wake-up call or a peace announcement. Are we at the beginning of something or is it the end? Am I going to be confronted with a scary unknown? Or is it that what is waiting for me is a moment of perfect silence when no one is allowed to disturb me?
I realize that my future attitude depends on the recognition of the song-signal and the way I interpret it. I’ve read that a German minister interpreted the signal as the end and hurried to leave, although he still had a life ahead. I have seen many assuming that we are witnessing the dawn of a new era; the planet has taken a break, we have rested, everything will restart and the world will re-grow from scratch. In other words, the awakening follows.
I would like it to be evening, to hear the pleasant song of bedtime and rest; to know that no one can disturb others from their thoughts or rest; to watch the rising of the stars and count them until I no longer know how to… star after star on the vault of the universe. But the sound of the trumpet I hear does not invite me to sleep.
Nor does it sound like a beginning of the day or of an era to me. My opinion is that the alarm went off.
There was another signal in the army: the alarm signal. It was completely different, unmistakable and inevitable. Not even those higher in rank could afford sleeping anymore. Everyone had to be ready for whatever came next. From one moment to the next, the unknown would begin. There was phantasmagorical speculation about what and why it would happen. We did not know if we would return to the barracks or if the war we had been training for so long had really begun. You were vaguely wondering: will I come out of this a hero or will I be among the fallen? Then you chose, while still waiting, to uncouple from the whole and focus on tying your laces or wrapping your backpack.
That is kind of what I feel is happening now. The increasingly present questions are: Will there be an “after”? Or will it be an immeasurable continuum? When will we really find out what this is all about? Will we be told or will someone know to tell us?
Is this the beginning of the war? I do not know. Is this going to be the day of release? It is possible. After all, the war started a long time ago, but we did not want to admit it. And then, what if the planet was really getting near the end of a road, fed up with so much instruction and simulation?
Every day, the news programs coming from all the satellites in orbit are affirming and then refuting the hypotheses and graphs that the smart and non-so-smart people of the planet serve us in the form of expertise. I am afraid that we know very little and what we do know we are unable to express. We like to brag and to cultivate our ego. We sometimes intersect with biblical predictions, but out of an elitism based perhaps only on belonging to a certain generation, we do not even place on the dashboard any part of the biblical scenario. Its conclusions may scare us. We may find the language too codified or bearing no relevance to what is happening to us now. It is true that in the religious language it is called plague, hard times, and not virus, pandemic, COVID-19, crisis etc.
What has not changed and can be assumed not to change is the experience of the human soul: fear has not changed its root, nor has despair or loneliness; we are equally troubled in the face of the unknown; we are just as closed in our shells as ever before and we are just as timidly calling on God’s intervention.
In conclusion, I, the man, have been fundamentally the same since the time of expulsion from Heaven. I will not change myself; not even a pandemic will. What could be my chance is something called the rediscovery of God. A father of the Christian thinking, Augustine, expressed an essential conclusion: “We all carry a God-shaped void in our hearts” and, until we fill that void, we will still be alone, desperate, easily scared and lost in every way.
Is this the end of the world or the beginning of a strange episode? I am not going to declare either, although I feel a certain reconfiguration of the route. But a return to a more friendly relationship with the One who sacrificed His Son for us, I think, would be a correct premise.
However, the signal is neither a bedtime call nor an awakening, but an alarm signal.
Daniel Chirileanu is an author and pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.