For centuries mankind has pondered the prospect of the ''apocalypse'' - that imagined final struggle between good and evil which would radically change life as we know it, and result in the triumph of good. Since the beginning of recorded history, too, mankind has dealt with the challenge of weapons of increasing destruction used to fight wars of great intensity. Yet mankind has survived and progressed.
It is important to see this broad perspective, as against the emotion and fears from time to time generated by events such as this coming Sunday's televised program of worldwide nuclear destruction, ''The Day After,'' as seen from the perspective of Kansas City. Depictions of a nuclear holocaust should be intended to point out the consequences of wrong decisions, aiding citizens to view in a clearer light alternatives that relate to nuclear weaponry and to warfare.
Yet the danger exists that graphic depictions, such as this televised program , could result in mesmerizing citizens and set in motion forces that would make it all the more difficult for world leaders to reach prudent decisions in the search for a diminution of world tensions and a lessening of nuclear armaments. Alerting the world's peoples to potential danger is useful, but alarming them could be harmful.
Special care needs to be given to the possibility of children viewing the program, inasmuch as it begins at 8 o'clock in many areas of the United States, when many youngsters are normally watching television. Guidelines suggested by numerous groups are wise: Children under 12 should not view the program, as its explicit scenes are inappropriate for them; teens should watch only in the company of parents or other responsible adults; afterward the family ensemble should discuss issues raised by the depiction.
All people need to work to achieve a reduction in the armaments of war, nuclear and otherwise. Beyond that a vision of peace is needed, one that derives from awareness of the spiritual origins of harmony, that puts into perspective the repeated intimations of overwhelming destruction.