The End of the World as We Know It
out on the Scenic Route
The publisher has just reminded me that the last year ever will begin tomorrow, and the second-to-the-last year ever ends today. Yes, folks, the dreaded A.D. 2012, the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, will have begun by the time you read this, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it except huddle in your hovel and wait for the end.
Actually, I think the beginning of the end was ten days ago, on the Solstice, which, if you ask me, is a much more sensible time to begin an ending than some randomly chosen date like January 1. At least, on the Solstice, there is a significant nanosecond during which we pass out of waning days into waxing days. Or something like that.
This, of course, is the real end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it that we are facing, unlike that end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it that happened—or, more accurately, didn’t happen—at zero-hundred hours on January 1, 2000. Y2K was not spectacular as far as end of times go, even after all the publicity it got. I know because I stayed up to watch it happen. And, even though I can show you exactly where I was sitting when the clock made its final tick of the 20th century, it is not because anything significant happened, but because absolutely nothing happened, which I had theorized for some months. Nine of us who were in the pub at that time breathed a collective sigh of relief, while I said, to no one in particular, “I told you so.” I ordered another beer and watched over the next half-hour another 50 or so survivors flock in to celebrate the miracle.
I didn’t bother to point out that if the end of the world was going to happen at zero-hundred hours anywhere, it probably wouldn’t be Pacific Standard Time, even if it does contain Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, where millions were locked in their apartments with a six months supply of bottled water, Top Ramen and toilet paper. No, more likely, it would be Greenwich Mean Time, or, even better, the exact moment when 0:00:00 crosses the International Date Line, a place of continual confusion no matter which direction you are coming from. That would be a perfect place for the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it to begin.
Of course, with the Mayan calendar now counting down to our next end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, we need to find out where the Mayans thought time began and ended. Then, we can go stand there at exactly 11:12 a.m., (Eleven-twelve! Another sign!) December 21, 2012, the precise instant of the winter Solstice — if we want to get it over with — or get as far away as possible, if we want to survive the unknown catastrophe(s) that will begin.
That’s 11:12 a.m. UTC, by the way, which stands for Coordinated Universal Time, by which computers keep track of things and all things aviation happen (If — no, when — your flight is delayed, it is delayed in Coordinated Universal Time). Why Coordinated Universal Time is known by the acronym “UTC,” is unclear, but it is somewhat clear that it deviates somewhat and somehow from Greenwich Mean Time, which for centuries has been how we keep track. Unless, of course you are a Nez Perce or Gond or Mayan or any of a huge number of other indigenous peoples who never saw a clock until a European showed up with one in their pocket and another hanging on the ship cabin wall.
Whew. All this timekeeping is making me dizzy. The earth is spinning and it’s already 12:10 (p.m., not a.m.) Mountain Standard Time and deadline is 40 minutes closer. As is end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.
If this all seems ridiculous, it is. The idea that we can predict and prepare for the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it has been disproven at least half a dozen times in the past 100 years, and probably a thousand in the thousand before that. Chicken Little is alive and well and living in the guise of humans worldwide. And the sky is still not falling.
The end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it is much more subtle than a falling sky or exploding city, and much more personal than that. It is a cancer diagnosis. It is a child killed in combat or on the highway or in some senseless act of violence. It is that friend or loved one who disappears and is never heard from again. It is divorce papers signed.
But, it is also in a new baby’s cry and the first time it feeds at its mom’s breast. It is a learner’s permit, a wedding license, a diploma, a handshake and a hug. It is in loving and being loved. It is in the ideal of peace.
We know not when or where the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it will happen because it is happening always and everywhere.
Happy New Year, friends, from out on the Scenic Route.