Apocalypse When?

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Over the past decade, I've spent many weekends camping in Boone, North Carolina. It's a lovely place with rolling mountains and excellent BBQ. The town itself is features all sorts of unusual shops where you can make your own hemp jewelery, admire blown glass, and there's also a particular bookshop known for mysticism and alternative cures. Once, I even found Cat Artists & Their Work in there.  Needless to say, it's an interesting store.

It was in that bookshop where I first learned about December 21, 2012. The date marks the end of a 5,126-year cycle on a Mayan calendar and--as the top story on CNN's technology page attests--has sparked a number of doomsday theories:

Dozens of titles about 2012 have been published and more are scheduled to go on sale in the coming months. Current offerings include "Apocalypse 2012," in which author Lawrence Joseph outlines "terrible possibilities," such as the potential for natural disaster.

But Joseph admits he doesn't think the world is going to end.. The author acknowledged he's worried his book's title might scare people, but said he wanted to alert the public about possible dangers ahead... "If it had been called 'Serious Threats 2012' or 'Profound Considerations for 2012,' it would have never gotten published," Joseph said.

Fair enough, fear sells. 

The thing is, nine years ago everyone was saying the same thing. There were theories from why zippers say Y2K to how
computers would reset themselves. And don't get me started on
everything wrong with Erich von Däniken. Some believers even carried their hysteria on until 2001, explaining the new millennium didn't really begin yet.  Then others warned of 2006 after recalculating Jesus' birth.  But so far we've persisted. Still, it seems like everyone's waiting for apocalypse these days. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised it's the top spot at CNN over less pressing issues.

I've acknowledged before that we humans seem to have a penchant for commemoration, but as for me, I'm not waiting for the world to end.  Sure, it very well might given we make such a mess of things regularly and have stockpiled enough nuclear arms to do it ourselves many times over.  But worrying gets us nowhere, so instead, I'm waiting for the world to change. And you know, just maybe, it's happening already.

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I occasionally visit a "Goodwill Thrift Outlet." It sells, by the pound, the used stuff that didn't fly off the shelves at the ordinary Goodwill stores.

One thing you find a lot of in the book bins are the products of the last round of alarmism. Y2K, bird flu. I suppose twenty years earlier it would be the "Jupiter Effect."

If an apocalypse ever happens the fringe will be to busy spouting doom over evolution, vaccines, and other people's reproductive systems to notice it occurred.

I notice such thinking even in non-doomsday journalism, such as science writing when it comes to things such as the long-term increase in the sun's brightness and its devastating effects upon life on earth. Most of the time there's something flippantly along the lines of "of course, we won't have to worry about that, having long since gone extinct."

There's no law of extinction; Things simply survive until they cannot. Given our intellectual and technological resources, the only excuses for our extinction would be recklessness (such as nuclear war), or self-fulfilling prophecy (a lack of long-term planning based on the premise that we'll have long since gone extinct).

By Jason Failes (not verified) on 27 Jan 2009 #permalink

Well there's an old Jewish story that if you're planting a tree and you see the Messiah coming, don't stop planting. There is something good about the y2k hysteria however. The Toronto emergency services (fire dept etc) had all kinds of generators and so on stashed away in case of y2k. Well that never happened, but we recently had a huge power outage, due to something a lot more mundane (burst watermain) and all that emergency equipment came in very handy.

Ah...von Daniken. I have long since cast him into the same bin of history as Fritjof Capra and Deepak Chopra. And speaking of hemp, can you also harvest the other famous hemp product here?

Regarding artisitic cats, I'm partial to the pair of linked tomes on the Amazon page, Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics, and Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics.

As if that second question even needed asking!

My humble hypothesis for why society always seems to be talking about apocalypse involves supreme narcissism:

1) I'm alive NOW. Therefore, this must be the most critical juncture of human life and the end is at hand.
2) I'm going to die soon. Yes, the "end" is at hand - certainly within decades - for ME. I don't want to die alone. Everyone might as well come with me.

I knew I'd seen this before, but hadn't bookmarked it. Took a while to find it, but here it is: a comprehensive list of failed end of days predictions. It isn't that the author doesn't believe in end of days, he just thinks it isn't proper to put a date on it. Still, it's an interesting and thought provoking assemblage of how, when & for what reason people thought the world was ending.

To be fair there was a LOT of very hard work and long hours spent making sure that most computers didn't have any problems during the turn over to the year 2000. The fact that most people think of it as a non-event is due to the people who did all the work getting ready for it. And 2001 -was- the first year of the new century. I'm really confused how the very real problems of the year 2000 transition that were mitigated by a lot of very hard work is in any way related to the 2012 stuff.

There is excellent BBQ in Boone? WHERE?

Bandanna's is middle of the road; Woodland's is in Blowing Rock, and it is a bit overly eastern NC (vinegar-based sauces). The new place in Blowing Rock (can't remember the name but it's on 321 between Woodlands and Shoppes on the Parkway) is pretty good but not outstanding. The restaurants that serve it as a sideline don't do all that good a job.

Ridgewood is superb, but it is near Elizabethton over in TN. I am terribly curious as to what you are referring to.

As a High Country native (Newland, though the parents are in Boone-proper now), I'm curious...which bookstore is this?

We never know when the world will end. The best thing that we must do is to make everyday a special day and make the most of everything. Life is really short, so enjoy every moment.