November 11, 2007

Apocalypse Eventually


I was in the bookstore getting aggravated the other day, when I noticed a book on one of the display tables in the front. It was entitled 2012, and was written by a popular science fiction author. I just assumed he’d picked up the Arthur C. Clarke franchise, and thought nothing more of it.

      Then elsewhere in the store, I saw three other books on three other tables, all of them with “2012” in the title. I found it a curious coincidence, but that’s all.

      Not long afterward, and for a variety of other reasons, I realized that if I stayed in the bookstore for another minute I’d begin screaming incoherently and knocking things over. Bookstores do that to me nowadays. Why I keep going back to them I can’t say, apart from the fact that I’m an idiot.

      I slammed my way back outside, having completely forgotten about “2012” and all the other stupid titles I’d seen on display, and went home.

      Two days later, much calmer by then, I received a note from a man I’d never met. He was talking about various conspiracies, and mentioned “2012” in passing, without context or explanation. That’s when all those book titles came back to me.

      So what the hell was the deal?

      Curious, I began to do a little research, ignoring all the other important things I really should’ve been doing. It didn’t take long to find what I was looking for.

      I generally like to keep up with my End of the World predictions, but this one had slipped right on by.

      I dashed off a note to my friend Dave at Germ Books in Philly, suggesting he get in on this 2012 thing now, since it was about to become Big Big Business. It turns out that he was way ahead of me, and Germ (which specializes in UFOs, conspiracies, the occult and what have you) has had a 2012 section since the day they opened, several years ago.

      For those of you who, like me, are a little behind the curve on the significance of 2012—specifically December 21st, 2012, or 122112, as the dorks like to say—it goes a little something like this.

      See, that date marks the end of the 13th cycle of the Mayan calendar, and that’s the end. There are no Mayan calendars that go beyond that point. Now, given that their calendars have been astronomically accurate to an astonishing degree up to this point, the fact that everything just seems to stop there must mean something right? Even if the Mayans said nothing of the sort themselves?

      The field was suddenly wide open, so every kind of crackpot eschatological nonsense has been slapped onto that date.

      That’s when the world’s going to end as a result of a Super Volcano in Yellowstone National Park.

      That’s when the world’s going to end after we’re struck by a comet.

      That’s when a giant tsunami is going to sweep across the whole planet.

      That’s when a full-scale nuclear war will take place.

      That’s when the battle of Armageddon will take place.

      That’s when the aliens (the ones who taught the Mayans how to make calendars and VCRs) will return to enslave us all.

      Or, on the flipside, that’s when the aliens (those same ones who knew the Mayans) will return and bring world peace,

      That’s when Jesus will return.

      That’s when all of humanity will experience a great spiritual evolution, and everyone will be nice and doe-eyed after that.

      One guy’s even arguing that that’s when the plumed serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, is coming back. (But at least if that happens, as the great Larry Cohen showed us, it’ll only take a few machine guns to eliminate that little problem.)

      Yes, well. The possibilities go on and on. Take your pick.

      I’d love to get all these people into one big room to let them argue over the “evidence” they’ve uncovered to support one particular theory or another.

      You know, I have a theory of my own, and I think my evidence is at least as solid as theirs. Maybe the Mayan calendar makers, who’d been working on these damn things for a good long time, got to the end of the thirteenth cycle, turned to one another and said, “That’s plenty, don’t you think? I mean, we’re talking a few thousand years down the line already here, guys—I sure as shit ain’t gonna be around then, are you?” “Yeah, you’re right—let’s call it a day.”

      And there you go—end of the calendar.

      (Here’s another question—if those Mayans were so damn smart and so advanced, why didn’t they come up with the “perpetual calendar,” like those brainiacs at Hallmark, hmm? They could’ve hung it in the kitchen next to the dishwasher and stopped all that fretting!)

      Not surprisingly, some mooncalfs bring up Nostradamus when discussing all this, and say that his predictions coincide with the Mayans. And to be fair, they might have a point—after all, I was reading some Nostradamus recently, and his writings predicted that I was going to take a walk to the grocery store yesterday.

      Yea, for the wind blew strong in the days to come and the great ball of fire glowed in the sky

      The strollers were everywhere, and would not offer free or easy passage

      But lo, verily, they had the kind of cheese you like, and peanut butter was on sale.

      And you know what? He was right!

      Silly bastards.

      See, the thing is, we need some sort of apocalypse to look forward to. Not that we need it so much, but we insist on it. Some years back, Morgan noted that every generation—quite likely out of simple arrogance—wants to believe that it’s the Last One, that the world will end in their lifetime. You can go back thousands of years, and everyone had reason to believe the world was going to go kaboom, and soon. That way, see, they don’t have to worry about the generations to follow, and so they don’t have to worry about being blamed for anything. That’s the exact reasoning James Watt (remember him?) used when he was Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior.

      After that Y2K nonsense, we haven’t really had a halfway decent apocalyptic prediction to cling to. Not one that entered mainstream culture, anyway. Oh, we’ve had various dire warnings about global warming and new super diseases, but nothing that gave us an exact date to work with. The problem with Y2K was that it only came up, really, a few months before the dreaded New Year. Now, by choosing December 21st, 2012, we have a good five years to get all antsy about those damn Mayans and their stupid calendar.

      Sad thing is, way things are going (both globally and in the apartment here) I almost wish there was something to all this crap. Listening to the news, listening to the shrill endless ads on the radio, looking at all those dead, empty faces I pass on the street, taking stock of my future prospects, I can’t say as I’d exactly mind an end of the world sometime soon.


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