Whether the Bible’s John, the Mayans, or Science has the right answer, the bottom line is when it happens, it’s highly unlikely we’ll know in advance, nor will we care. Why? When the world as we know it is over, it’s going to be a big giant fireball/earthquake/smiting that will obliterate everything in its path.
I’ve been working on a novel recently, titled False Prophet. In it an apocalypse has occurred (or has it?) and before writing, I had to research a variety of things. First, how would such a thing happen? I read through many theories, both scientific and crackpot and you would not believe the nutters out there in the world, just running loose and wreaking havoc. Or, perhaps you would. I was fascinated and horrified at once. Do people honestly believe these things they concoct in their crazy heads? Oh yes, they do. Very much.
I love these nutters, quite frankly. Why? They are a fiction writer’s dream. Actually, most of them are fiction writers. But, I’ve gone off topic…
One character in my novel is religious to the point of annoying and scary. While she has good intentions most of the time, she’s a fanatic to the batshit crazy degree and has taken the Bible’s messages and interpreted them to suit her own needs and purposes. I know what you’re thinking. Who would do such a thing? Imagine, misinterpreting the very clear messages in the Bible. Impossible. (yes, that would be sarcasm)
So all of this had me thinking, what a great discussion topic it would make. The apocalypse; fact or fiction?
What do I believe? I believe it’s going to happen. How? Oh, I have many ideas.
Let’s begin with theories in general. By the way, has anyone else noticed that nearly every version of the eventual end of the world includes an earthquake? No? Well in all the theories I looked at, earthquakes are a must. Maybe they’re onto something, maybe not. We’ll have to compare notes when the big day comes.
School of Thought #1: Revelations
One theme in many apocalypse theories is that the predictions based on the Bible’s book of Revelations. This little gem was written by a guy named John. John who? No one seems to be clear on that, and although many speculate who it might be, they just can’t agree. Now, John is on the Greek island of Patmos, around the year 96, as he sits down to write his apocalyptic tale. Here’s where things get muddy for the first time. Many have speculated on whether John was exiled or whether he went to Patmos willingly. Maybe he was exiled. I mean, can you imagine if he carried on like that in front of the Romans? His neighbors were probably like “Dude, stop with the God shit, okay? You want to get us all killed?” and when he didn’t stop, they just sent him away somewhere he couldn’t cause trouble. Maybe, with this story brewing in his mind, he needed some place quiet to lay it all out. All the war and the dying and the crazy Roman crap going on around him had him too worked up to think clearly. So, like any writer worth his salt would do, he just left.
In my mind, I’m wondering whether how he got there really matters. To me, the important thing to know is that when he wrote his chapter of the Bible, he and all the Christians and Jews around him were going through a time of great upheaval and stress. The Romans, who didn’t understand how anyone could believe in just one god, did what the Romans were good at and made life miserable for those who refused to do things their way. It’s why they were so powerful. Otherwise, the people they conquered would have been mocking their skirts and funny headpieces.
If you can read Revelations objectively, John’s writings show a bitter, angry man, probably rightly so, who is lashing out against those who are persecuting him; people he believed to be blaspheming against God with their worship of false gods. The numbers, should you choose to examine them, all relate back to the emperors and the events of that time. No, I won’t list it all. I’m not a scholar, nor am I writing a book. It’s a blog post, not long enough to pick such things apart. Google it, you’ll see what I mean.
To most who can’t look at the work objectively, he is prophesizing what will be. I mean, seven-headed beasts, mystical numbers, and big fancy words always mean someone is psychic, no? The bottom line is if you don’t think as a Christian man of John’s time and situation would think, then how can you possibly interpret the mumbo-jumbo laid out in his writing? How could anyone of this day and time understand what he was thinking when he wrote it? No one can. This is why the apocalypse predictions based on the book of Revelations are so varied and often wrong.
But how can they all be wrong? Throughout the Bible there are a series of great earthquakes, the years (2000, 2014, and 2113) in which they’ll happen clearly encoded in the text. These clearly show the apocalypse is coming.
Um…sure. Clearly. Because if they were say, ambiguous or not there at all, we wouldn’t be in total agreement of when the end of the world was going to happen.
The thing is, much of the Bible is written in such a way that each person who reads it will take away a different meaning. This is brilliant in my opinion. I mean to write anything that can be so personal for each reader is awesome. However, it also means that one must try not to read too much into it. As in, grain of salt folks. Common sense. Logic versus crazy imaginations working overtime.
Here’s my take on the whole, “God is going to strike us down and he’s told us exactly when and how” school of thought. Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-forgiving being, who clearly has more important things to do with his time, fuck with our heads by speaking to certain individuals at times too far in the past to even understand or clarify what they passed on, and convince them to write a book with messages so confusing, so open to interpretation, that no one can agree on their meaning or purpose?
In my mind, such a being would simply not tell us at all or he/she/it/they would let us all in on the plan. Why waste time messing around? Why make us wonder when it is we’ll pay for being so imperfect and human? It makes no sense. If the God of the other parts of the Bible is the God that is running the show, this screaming ball of vengeance he’s about to throw at us would not be predictable. He’s just gonna throw it. When he does, it’s not going to matter who predicted it. No one’s going to be around to pat them on the back for their accurate guesswork anyway.
School of Thought #2: The Mayan Calendar
For anyone who’s done the research, the Mayan calendar does not predict the end of the world. No, really, it doesn’t.
Let’s discuss the Mayan’s a bit first, shall we? They existed from about the year 250 to 900 A.D. Their longest calendar, called “The Long Count” is the calendar that many imaginative folks have claimed predicts the world will end in December 2012, or thereabouts. But this is not so. People just saw that the great Mayans ended their writing on this particular day and proceeded to go completely insane on the subject.
Maybe they ran out of time. Maybe the guy writing it died. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve misunderstood.
Gasp! Us? Misunderstand? Surely you jest, Renee.
No, not jesting at all. You see, we must examine how the Mayans used these calendars before we panic and start building the space shuttles to Mars. They used these calendars to document both past and future events, but until the advent of the Long Count, the other calendars only documented a relatively short period of time. These calendars were intended to span a generation, or the lifetime of an individual, which at that time was approximately 52 years. What if they wanted to record an event that happened more than 52 years ago? They couldn’t. So, they created the Long Count calendar to solve this problem. It is not based on any ancient measures of time like the others were, however. Don’t worry, the professionals have studied this and confirmed that fact. I didn’t pull it out of my ass. Promise. Google it.
The Long Count was set to begin in the year 3114 B.C. (according to our modern Gregorian calendar) and most scholars have agreed that it runs out after 5126 years. The end date of course is 2012 A.D. More than 5000 years. Can you imagine creating such at thing? Just for one second, humor me, okay? You’re a Mayan guy or gal, way back in the day and you’re working on this calendar. The townsfolk are like, “Dude, when you gonna finish the damn thing?” and you’re like “Well, we don’t want to make another one, so we’re trying to cover as much time as we can. This rock is hard and we’ve already used all out best chisels and I want to take a vacation with the fam next summer, so let’s discuss this.” So you and all the other thinkers gather and discuss how long life could possibly last. Considering that previous calendars span around 50 years, a generation, you all look at your work and say, “Well, surely after 100 generations, mankind will have evolved or created some automated sort of beast to track these things. No?” Then Joe Asshole who always has to ruin shit says, “But what if future people think we stopped because we thought the world would stop? What then?” You all stare, quite pissed that he’s trying to guilt you into writing the stupid calendar forever and refuse to do anymore. Joe asshole says, “It’s impossible for the world to end. This is gonna cause problems later you know.” You ignore him and take that vacation. Soon after, something happens and your civilization ceases to exist. You all move to Vermont or get sucked into some kind of freak vortex, no one knows because you’re all gone. But, somewhere in space and time, Joe asshole is still mocking you. Because he was right.
Seriously, consider the problems first with trying to make the Mayan calendars correlate with our modern calendar. When a major event is found in the Mayan calendar, archaeologists have to translate their system of measuring time into our current system of months, days and years. They’ve done this, using methods I do not understand nor do I care to learn. Bottom line is I believe they’ve figured out with considerable accuracy that the calendar will run out next year. What I have a problem with is what the date means. Is the date right? Maybe. Maybe it’s a few days or months out. That’s not the issue. The issue is that no one has determined whether the Mayans intended to use this Long Count as a cyclic calendar, meaning that only the first cycle of the calendar runs out in 2012, or is it prophesizing, meaning that they’re predicting that time ends completely on this date?
I won’t discount the theory completely until January 2013, but I will point out that logic, as I know it, forces us to acknowledge that these people might have been ridiculous-smart, but they couldn’t know they’d die out or vanish or whatever happened to them. They didn’t know that their civilization would come to an end. They didn’t know many things. True, they were an amazingly advanced civilization for their time, but if they were compared to modern civilizations, would they still be perceived to have superpowers? No. They were smart, industrious, and adaptable. They realized their calendar system didn’t work for them, so they created one that would. Had they been given more time, perhaps we’d have another Long Count in the wings. We can’t know for sure.
School of Thought #3: Science
I’ll make this short because scientist, that thoughtful bunch are pretty much in agreement on their theories of the apocalypse. Basically, for science it boils down to this: The universe is finite. We can agree on this, no? Scientists agree that at some point the Earth and everything on it will cease to exist. Whether it is a big bang that obliterates us or the sun going dark, the fact remains that we will be gone. And we won’t care because we will be dead.
Before you go screaming into a panic, let me reassure you it won’t happen in your lifetime or mine. We’ll be dead long before the universe is. And if it did happen tomorrow, or next week, it’s highly unlikely you’ll realize it’s happening before you die anyway.
The Bottom Line as I See It
Let’s be clear that I am not saying I’m right or anyone else is wrong…okay, so I’m saying some people are wrong obviously. But I don’t have the answers either. I don’t believe anyone does.
What can we do about it? Not a damn thing. We can do nothing about angry vengeful deities, predestined prophesies, or flaming balls of fire losing gas or suddenly dropping out of orbit. Why? We don’t have the knowledge to do anything about any of it. Perhaps at some point, some crackerjack in a lab coat will be all “Well shit, I’ve just figured out how to save humanity from certain death.” And we’ll all applaud him, make him King of the World and offer to have his babies, etc. before we find out some random fact that makes us want to forget him again. I’m sure he tortures kittens or puppies in his spare time. But the future King has lots of time to figure it out and we have lots of time to find out his darkest secrets when he does.
So, grab a drink, put up your feet, be nice to the asshole next door, love your kids and your dog (or cat), and stop worrying about it. Live the life you were given for crying out loud, instead of whining like a bunch of ungrateful little brats.
Despite what the theorists say they’ve found in the Bible or the Mayan calendar, it’s not likely to happen for a very long time. Besides, we’re probably going to leave Earth before anything bad happens anyway. Don’t you know we aren’t the only beings out there in the big bad universe?
And thus inspired, the writer keeps writing.