Our planet, spherical and regally blue, will be engulfed by its sun. Flames laced with radiation will stretch across space and melt our atmosphere. Our earth will be scorched till all that remains is a blackened world filled with the charred, smoldering remnants of extinct civilizations. The end of humanity is upon us, supposedly.
Dec. 21, 2012 is the end of civilization, according to many misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. There are three possible events expected to bring us to our doom. Massive solar flares will spring from the sun and destroy satellites and earth. Magnetic shifts of the earth’s poles will usher in climate change that would make global warming seem like a hot summer, which is another alternative. Lastly, the earth’s alignment with the center of our Milky Way will cause gravitational issues.
Unfortunately for us students, all of these theories have been disproven, so don’t ditch finals week. The Mayans were in fact not counting down to doomsday. The calendar is and remains just that, a calendar. The infamous date simply, and rather boringly, marks the end of a very long era that spans over 5,000 years.
Doomsday scenarios are not new. In the mid-1800s, William Miller predicted the end three times before his death. His failure was ultimately dubbed the Great Disappointment. Jehovah’s Witnesses have predicted the end of the world eight times between 1914 and 1994. Then there was Y2K, which sent herds of panicked shoppers to stores snatching water, canned foods and guns. In May 2011, preacher Harold Camping predicted the end of the world on the 21st of that month. There is a clear thirst for an apocalypse, but why do we yearn for such a tragic end?
The atomic age has surely made a fiery death more ominous. The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and Nagasaki has left a lingering fear in the minds of Americans of atomic war. This fear hovers over discussions about US relations with China and Russia. Our preoccupation with the end of the world may stem from the very real fear of World War III.
Let us not forget the messianic void. The majority of the United States is Christian and thus awaits Christ’s second arrival. Our religious culture has created an attitude that is gung ho for doomsday and pushes many to find an apocalypse in obscure texts like the Mayan calendar. Then again, maybe there is truth in the notion of salvation through hellfire.
Do we just seek an end because we envy the future? After death, life moves on and there will be new books, films that are actually in 3D, flying cars, even exploration of new planets. Self-awareness is both a godsend and damnation. We can bask and savor in the riches of today only to know that the riches of tomorrow will probably be better. Awaiting an apocalypse can cradle the fear of morality, providing the security that there is no tomorrow and that we have experienced everything in life.
I agree that we are heavily influenced by Christianity, scared by atom bombs and fear our own mortality, but we are also bored. We are not the numb and dumb who watch action flicks because of the explosions and idiotic, clichéd one-liners. We are consumed by the story, whether it is an action-romance or a war flick. The adrenaline rushes through our body and, like a lightning bolt, jerks us out of banality. We are taken into a world of survival and excitement where one is not just drifting from one passive moment to the next, but one is actively trying to stay alive.
Under these circumstances, life seems more meaningful and precious when you must survive it, and perhaps that is what we crave. We don’t merely want to live life; we want to survive it.
Nidia Sandoval is a fourth-year history major. She can be reached at email@example.com