Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Apocalypse when?

If the world ended in a crashing apocalypse in the next few years, it wouldn’t be a surprise; after a summer like this one, how could it be? For anyone who pays attention to the news or lives in an apartment without air conditioning, this really did feel like one of the last summers we’ll ever have.

Tornadoes touched down in Massachusetts, ripping apart the city of Springfield and its surrounding towns, while the heat index map of the country turned tomato red from coast to coast. The Arab spring turned into a summer of turmoil and violence and young people rioted in London because of economic woes, police racism and thinking rioting is cool.

The tragic shootings in Norway showed the world what nobody wanted to say on television: that white people can be terrorists, too. The Republican Party presidential candidates started to gear up for what will surely be the most hilarious and disturbing election we’ll see in a long time. The threat of “debt-pocalypse” turned Congress into a hair-pulling, name-calling bunch of children who only came to an agreement so they could go on summer vacation. I never made it out to Six Flags because the stock market gave me all the rollercoastering I could ever want. And with every newspaper op-ed, every Fox News commentary, every NPR podcast, one opinion stood out: it’s beginning to feel like the end.

Of course, there are the literal apocalypses heading our way, too.

The second half of what is now a two-part revelation predicted by California minister Harold Camping is coming Oct. 21. Then there is the ever-popular end of the Mayan calendar coming up in 2012. Not up on Mayan lore? Just watch the History or the Discovery Channel for a few hours. They’ll explain everything about the mystical Mayincatec – Maya-Inca-Aztec super culture – people, their knack for prophecy and the helpful extra-terrestrials that built those big pyramids for them. For extra fun, take a drink every time an academic rolls their eyes. But despite the silliness inherent in these predictions, I hear educated people say it all the time, “Maybe those wacky guys are right. Maybe the world really will end next year.”

The reality of the situation is that people have been predicting, “the end is near” since the beginning of history. The world should have ended a thousand times over by now. And yet, we keep trucking forward and moving the end date with us, each time swearing that this one is the real one, and each time people believe it. Why do even the most skeptical among us wonder if the end is nigh? After so many false alarms, one would think that, as a collective species, we might get wise to the apocalypse game. But the doomsday advocates seem to have incredible staying power.

Each new generation must grow up and face the fact that their actions have unseen implications. We reach a point where we realize what it means to waste electricity, water or food, whether as the result of paying a higher electric bill or reading about international water crises. Wikipedia recently let me know that the word apocalypse does not mean the end, but instead a massive revelation; the exposure of a truth that has been previously hidden from most people. In that sense, growing up is in itself an apocalypse. And through it all we come to a sometimes-upsetting reality: the world will go on.

If there will be no damnation from on high, no great judgment, then there will be no confirmation of what we believe to be right and wrong. And for those waiting for a godless, indiscriminate end of the world, there will be no conclusion to the war and suffering. We will indefinitely spin in an infinite space, never reaching a final chapter or last scene. The world, unlike Congress, has no vacation deadline. The dizzying effect of realizing how many more loops of history, how many more moral circles we have to run around in before the sun explodes in four billion years, is enough to make anybody hope, somewhere in the back of their mind, that there is some God out there waiting to smush us under his great, giant thumb.

But then again, our generation doesn’t have much of a sense of the future. Our lives of binge drinking, chain smoking and eating wings at three in the morning on a Wednesday until dawn shows a strong indifference toward the idea that we will have to live in these bodies for an extended period.

It’s easier to live in the now, even if the now is a strange and terrible time. And as far as I can tell, we should get used to it, because as a species, as a people and as a world, we have been and always will be strange and terrible.

Tori Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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