I’m an end-of-the-world survivor. Through my life, there have been dozens of dates set for doomsday. Magic comets, mysterious asteroids, the second coming, planetary alignments, the rapture, you name it. People keep picking dates and years that the world will end – so many that I don’t think I’ve lived through a single year when there has not been at least one prediction that the world would end that year.
Stubbornly, the world has refused to end, much to the embarrassment and chagrin of many doomsday prophets.
Welcome to 2012.
Now, what’s coming up this year?
Well, Robert Weinland says that Jesus Christ is returning on 27 May this year, and that if you mock his prediction or fail to properly respect God’s infinite grace and mercy and love, well, he’s promised to use God’s power to murder you with cancer. That’s only 22 weeks away, so if you’re a mocker you’ll be on your last legs already.
Then we have the Mayan ‘Long Count’ calendar, which ends… well, actually, there’s a little bit of variation here. The most popular notion is that it ends in December this year. However, others claim that the Long Count calendar actually ended as much as two years ago, because we’re actually a little vague on exactly when the calendar started. We think it was in 3114BC, but it might have been earlier.
Now, this one guy in 1962 suggested that the end of the Mayan calendar would be the time of Armageddon and the end of the world, but it isn’t actually clear quite why he thought that, since apparently none of the Mayans ever did predict anything bad would happen then at all. Nevertheless, lots of folks have been repeating that for a while. However the guy did sell a whole lot of books with the Mayans and the end of the world in them.
Besides, the Mayans wrote down a lot of dates for things that they wanted to clear their cultural schedule for after the end of the Long Count calendar. Hootenannies and such. The sort of stuff you don’t generally chisel into your temple wall if you’re (say) expecting the world to end some 2000 years earlier than that.
There’s a so-called ‘galactic alignment’ that is thought by some to cause mass extinctions every 26 million years. The last one was about three million years ago, but some people believe that the next one will be 23 million years early and happen this year. Never mind that the ‘alignment’ itself actually takes 36 years. There’s no apparent reason for it to be be early, but people are saying it will be early and sudden anyway.
Then there’s the notion of Nibiru (also called Planet X, or sometimes Nemesis) which is either a planet, or a star or a neutron star (nobody’s really very clear on that) which will destroy the whole of the Earth exactly the same way it was predicted to in May 2003. Nibiru is supposed to be impossible to see or detect in any way at all. Thankfully, a few people have been in psychic contact with aliens who decided to encourage feelings of dread and worry by telling them all about it. Mind you, these aliens got it wrong last time, so maybe they’re just griefers.
Then we have a geomagnetic reversal that is supposed to be triggered by the upcoming solar maximum. Now, geomagnetic reversals do happen. They take about seven thousand years, and they mostly cause mild annoyance to some birds or birdlike animals. Proponents of the geomagnetic-reversal-end-of-the-world say that the upcoming huge solar maximum will trigger a sudden reversal, releasing the energy of 100 billion atomic bombs – a figure that I understand was arrived at by the painstaking process of completely misunderstanding the interaction of solar radiation. Also, the upcoming solar maximum isn’t going to be particularly large – all forecasts suggest it will be a comparatively sedate one compared to the last few. Anyway, as usual, everyone and everything dies.
The final major contender this year is alien invasion. I’m guessing that the people who believe in this one are expecting aliens who don’t know about the Second Coming, the Mayan calendar, the galactic alignment mass extinction, the microwaving of Earth by geomagnetic reversal, or the destruction of Earth by Nibiru.
And by an unhappy coincidence, all of these are predicted (by their relative adherence) to take place on 21 December – except the Second Coming, which obviously will take place in May after a whole bunch of us have been murdered by cancer for doubting.
I tell you, that one day will be an exciting time – what with all those disasters happening on the one day. I’d hate to be those invading aliens. That would just suck.
Now it’s time for a Christian Dogma break: Believing that you know the date, time or even year of the end of the world is, in the Christian faith, what they call heresy. Dogmatically speaking, even God doesn’t know when the Second Coming, the Rapture or the Apocalypse will be – He said so, and He’s supposed to be playing it by ear. Besides, He said it was going to be a surprise for everyone, and I’m sure nobody wants to come out and call God a liar. Therefore if you were to suggest that you know when it is going to happen, you’re pretty much believing that you have better knowledge than God. I’m sure I can leave it to you to figure out just how heretical that is, and which of the major sins are involved.
So, Christians? You’re all exempt from believing in predictions of the end of the world. That bit of a soaking we got as children certainly turned out to be good for something after all.
As for the rest of you? You don’t have to believe that the Mayans had a better space program than we ever had. You don’t have to believe in psychic alien contact, or undetectable stars, or a bunch of made-up hooey that doesn’t turn out to be any more real this year than any other year that it was supposed to happen.
Yet both the religious and the secular alike apparently keep hanging on to the hope that the world will actually end. Really soon.
Sit there and think about that for a moment. Right at this very moment, there are thousands – indeed tens or hundreds of thousands – of people around the world who have their fingers crossed for the catastrophic end of the planet, whether by the power of God, or by some badly-aimed stellar body, or… well, by anything. And when they’re disappointed that it doesn’t happen, they latch onto a new date, as if they could shatter this Earth by faith and will alone.
You might start wondering exactly why.
I think it is that an increasing number of people don’t want to see the consequences of the things they’re doing now. They don’t want to suffer withering looks from their children or grandchildren over the state of the economy, or the climate, or energy resources, or pollution, or pay-to-play legislatures.
We know deep-down that we’re soiling the nest, and we think we’re screwing things up so badly that we’re wishing the planet would go away rather than face the consequences of our choices today, or the blame that history will assign us. That’s why so many of us want the world to end. As for me, I suppose I’ll just get murdered by that cancer guy in a month or three.
Of course some few people believe instead that this year will be a year of sudden enlightenment for humanity. If so, I’m rather hoping that it happens on the 22nd of December; that we all wake up in the morning and realise that the continual doomsday predictions are essentially always bullshit and stop caring about those, and maybe start thinking about the future, caring more about each-other and maybe working to fix up our mess in countless little ways.
But that really seems as unlikely and outlandish as all of the others, doesn’t it?