Kirban was a snake-oil salesmen who found his calling in Bible prophecy books. Schertstuhl ran across a paperback copy of Kirban’s novel 666, which was, in many ways, a precursor for Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series. Of course, it was just as popular among a subset of Christians as apocalypse porn—who doesn’t want to read about the testing of martyrs and the destruction of evil-doers!
But now look. Something went wrong — I’m not sure — somehow, in these last few years, everything went… flat, and our screaming plunge towards Doomsday leveled out into Dante’s Steam Train at Six Flags over Hell. Where once we had War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death to contend with, now there’s Limited Engagement, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Olestra and, true, Death, but if you want we’ll cut off your head and keep it in a tub of liquid nitrogen with your gonads so maybe you won’t really be dead (AIDS isn’t worth much as a plague really since it’s so hard to catch — what you want for a plague is something that’ll hit two out of three people for no apparent reason, involve horrifying buboes that will grotesquely disfigure the survivors, and be transmitted by rats).
Very intriguing essay. Perhaps he’s right, and we don’t deserve an apocalypse. Instead, we’ll just keep whimpering along, no bang! of an ending in sight.
Two fairly recent books—both of which are generating a good amount of buzz—take on the “end of the world” fascination (including the variation that involves zombies) with a more literary twist.
The first, by Colson Whitehead, might be considered a straight-up zombie novel—except that it isn’t. In Zone One, Whitehead (the author of such well-respected literary novels as The Intuitionist and John Henry Days) posits a plague that turns humans into zombies of two types: the relatively aggressive, fast-moving kind that eats and moves on, and the “stragglers,” trapped by whatever remnant of their lives holds them in one place attempting to complete some central, now-impossible task.
The central character, Mark Spitz (obviously, a nickname), is part of a para-military squad clearing the eponymous Zone One—-a walled-off section of Manhattan—-of stragglers. It’s an attempt by what remains of government to restore order (and humanity) to the world. That it seems doomed, particularly when seen through the eyes of these PASD (“Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder) sufferers, is irrelevant; zombies are killed, bagged, transported and incinerated.
But what Whitehead has done is use the style of an excellent novelist to delve deeply into what happens to the human mind—-and soul, if you will—-when it reaches the very end of normalcy, and he does it well. Whitehead’s is the zombie novel that will stand next to Mary Shelley’s monster novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, as the example of how no topic is beyond literary worth.
The second book in this literary apocalypse is Maureen F. McHugh’s collection of short stories, After the Apocalypse. McHugh takes “apocalypse” here as having the widest possible meaning; these are all looks at the flexibility (and lack thereof) of humans in a time of great change and upheaval.
That is, after all, the very definition of conflict, and so the heart of great literature.
McHugh’s people are not always likable—-in fact, they lean toward the “human” end of humanity—-but they are real enough. The opening story, “The Naturalist,” gives us a convicted criminal sentenced to a “zombie preserve” in Cleveland, the idea being, of course, that the zombies will either eat or “turn” him (and if you don’t get the drift of that description, go back and watch either Night of the Living Dead or Shaun of the Dead again).
Instead, he becomes a student of the zombie ecology, which is both perfectly sensible and incredibly horrifying.
In other stories, McHugh writes about the psychological impact of abandonment as a sort of apocalypse (“The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large”), the emergence of an unusual desire that seems contagious (“Going to France”), and the decision to live as best one can, regardless of circumstances (“Honeymoon”).
She’s got a deft, light touch to her storytelling, as well as a concentration on character that makes each tale stand up well on its own. And yes, she uses literary skill rather than a gross-out sensibility that spoils so much apocalyptic fiction; she “lifts the veil,” as “apocalypse” really means, rather than tearing the curtain.
Both of these books are smart, thought-provoking—-and in weird ways, funny—-literature that also happens to be entertaining. And have zombies.
There are a number of stories circulating right now about “strange sounds" being heard, and attributing them to either experiments being conducted by HAARP (the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program), about which there exist an abundance of conspiracy theories, or that the “sounds” are actually the Lord’s trumpets announcing Armageddon. Of course, one report from London was actually found to be the broadcast sound of an unusual musical instrument called a waterphone.
In the case of the [Tim] LaHaye endorsement, the idea is that [Newt] Gingrich is ready to meet his maker … or at least he knows that certain things need to be in place for the Messiah to return and usher in the end times. … Are rapture A-listers correct in their literal interpretation of the good book? Well, we may be on a fast track to doomsday as I write this—if you believe along with millions of others that bar codes on consumer goods are a sign of the apocalypse. I happen to count myself among that group, although I’m not sure why we have to decode the New Testament for the news. In any case, now that Gingrich has received LaHaye’s endorsement, I can’t get the following image out of my head: President Gingrich is in the Oval Office, taking that critical 3 a.m. phone call. Our nation has just been attacked! In the middle of the call, he ascends through the roof of the White House as the Messiah makes a landing in Israel. Big surf ravages the land and the fur flies in many nations. Those who are not rapture ready are left behind, at which point the looting begins—and bar codes are instantly meaningless!
Can a nod from LaHaye really make this happen? Perhaps not. To hurry things along, Jerry Falwell has also checked in with an endorsement—from the grave. “As my friend, the late pastor Dr. Jerry Falwell told me personally,” LaHaye said, “ ‘Speaker Newt Gingrich is the most qualified man in America to run as president of the United States.’ ”
[Speaking on religions constantly writing about the apocalypse] to the best selling pulp fiction Left Behind series, which ostensibly authored by Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, was apparently generated by the old expedient of letting two orangutans loose upon a word processor.
Oh my god, it’s just fucking gold. “Ostensibly authored” is brilliant, fucking brilliant.
"Those who took [Tim] LaHaye seriously in 1982 would have been surprised that the world was still around in 1992. Those who took LaHaye seriously in 1992 would have been surprised that the world was still around in 2002. Those who took LaHaye seriously in 2002 must be surprised that the world is still around in 2012.
"And those who take Tim LaHaye seriously in 2012 must be overlooking everything he’s been saying since 1982."
Of course, our old friend Harold Camping is on the list, but he’s at the very end. That’s because a prediction of the Rapture and Armageddon isn’t nearly as crackpot as some of the others.
We’ve also got the guy who predicted a new ice age beginning in 2000 (nope, didn’t happen). Then there’s Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant (and for an interesting take on that, you should read how it evolves in S.M. Stirling’s post-apocalypse novel series that begins with Dies the Fire.)
Add the woman who thinks aliens from another star system are communicating with her about a planet named Nibiru that is going to crash into the Earth this year, and you’ve got a short baker’s dozen of fruitcakes.
Dark Mountain asks us to question the fundamental assumptions of our everyday life that deny the fragility of the society we live in and the possibility of social collapse. “Human civilisation is built on little more than belief: belief in the rightness of its values; belief in the strength of its system of law and order; belief in its currency; above all, perhaps, belief in its future,” write Hine and Kingsnorth in the Dark Mountain manifesto.
"That civilisations fall, sooner or later, is as much a law of history as gravity is a law of physics," they state. "What remains after the fall is a wild mixture of cultural debris, confused and angry people whose certainties have betrayed them and those forces which were always there, deeper than the foundations of the city walls: the desire to survive and the desire for meaning."
1. After being buried at sea and exposed to the nuclear radiation at the bottom of it, Osama bin Laden returns as a zombie. He bombs America, and by extension, the rest of the world since America is the best country.
2. We learn that the dinosaurs weren’t actually wiped out, but instead got…
The SF Chronicle’s Mark Morford—always good for an iconoclastic laugh—wrote about the Rapture in his column on Wednesday:
Verily, from the Mayans to the Greeks, the pagans to the nutball evangelicals, New Age hippies to the witches of Burning Man, every tribe has their ache for transformation, for a final, orgasmic release into the Great Void. Right now it’s freshly coupled to a feeling that 2012 is particularly pregnant and tangy, more potentially explosive than any other year to date. Indeed, the 2012 cataclysm is an idea that’s been hovering around the collective consciousness for so long, there just might be something to it. You think?
He does make a good point, though; that while most apocalyptic fears are dressed up in mythology and religiosity, but we are in fact at a very fragile point in human history, with a real opportunity to make a difference.
And this is where apocalypse-believers do the most damage: to their children. A moving essay from Ex-Christians.net, “Waiting for the Apocalypse”:
Years of warnings from preachers, family members and every other adult I trusted left me unable to believe anything but this: the world was ending any day; it was only a matter of time. I kept my fears to myself and accepted that my life would be short. I tried so hard to let go of the resentment that came with believing I would never experience the joys of growing up. Eventually I gave up things like childhood dreams and long term goals, even simple things like looking forward to something a few months away. The summer I was fifteen years old, my parents were planning the family vacation for the following June. We were sitting on the front porch, and my father asked both my sister and I if there was anywhere we wanted to stop on the way to Yellowstone National Park. “I don’t care, you can pick,” my usual answer. I wanted to go to the Mall of America, I had for years, but before I could even finish the thought, I knew none of us would be alive by the time next spring came around. I didn’t want to look forward to something I believed would never happen.
The difficulty with prophecies — whether based on passages from the Bible or ancient calendars, on solid climate science and economics or the visions of the Mongolian shamans Lawrence E. Joseph visited while researching his books — is that they are almost invariably wrong. Human beings are remarkably bad at predicting even relatively short-term, simple occurrences, such as the weather on Monday or the price of gold on Friday, much less something as vast and complex as the future of humanity. Many important events of the recent past came as a surprise to most people: World War I, the stock market crash of 1929, the Cold War, the computer age, the economic meltdown of 2008, the Arab Awakening, even the Occupy Wall Street movement. Part of the problem, as Scottish philosopher David Hume pointed out in the eighteenth century, is that we are equipped with a concept of “cause” that constitutes little more than an association of things or events in the past — and projecting the patterns of the past onto the future is perilous. We read books of narrative history and biography and get the impression that what made things happen, what shaped the story, was always sharply defined and clear, when in fact it wasn’t and more likely still isn’t. The real problem with the future is that it doesn’t yet exist, and the forces that bring it into existence are too complicated, too subtle and volatile and fractal, for us to know in advance — or ever.
And yet we continue to try. Why? Because we need to have a sense that we control our fates, even if all that means is that we know our fates. And because we need to believe we are part of a story with a larger meaning, that vice is rewarded with punishment, that redemption is possible, that history is not random and empty, that a higher power (whether Isaiah’s wrathful God or simply the natural world) exacts the final judgment. The current proliferation of prophetic books and films and movements suggests an anxiety peculiar to this moment. In 1987, we could happily sing along with the REM anthem “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” believing the party would go on indefinitely in some form or other. But the mood going into 2012 is considerably darker, and we don’t feel fine. There are things we really don’t want to disappear — for instance, the King James Bible, Giotto’s Arena Chapel frescoes, sturdy country houses, huge roast turkeys with everyone we love gathered around — in the transition to what Joseph chirpily refers to as “whatever dimension of existence happens to come next,” and we may be on the road to losing all of them and more.
It’s really worth the time to read—and lists a great many good books, only some of which I have read.
dWith all the attention going toward the so-called Mayan apocalypse, let’s not lose sight of the fundy Mormon apocalypse: Jailed Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) prophet Warren Jeffs has predicted the destruction of the world by a god who is very displeased at his incarceration for child rape.
What’s more, in preparation for this apocalypse, Jeffs has ordered “loyalty tests” of FLDS membership, and according to news reports, some young women are D”disappearing.”
But groups that work with those in Utah’s polygamous communities said some of those who have been re-baptized into the faith have simply vanished.
"Parents that have dropped off their girls for interviews, they go to pick them up and the girls have been sent off to a ‘safe place of refuge’ is what they’re being told," said Tonia Tewell, the executive director of the group Holding Out Help. "And the families haven’t been deemed worthy or unworthy yet. But they have no idea where their children are disappearing to."
Hmmm. Sounds more like a plot to secure more young brides for somebody than anything, but the real problem here is the tendency of such patriarchal prophets to resort to violence against their own people when they’re not getting their way (compare with Jim Jones, David Koresh).
Because scaring little kids is SUCH a good way to make them believers
Via the Daily Mail in the UK (and if I’m not mistaken, that’s one of Satan’s—I mean Rupert Murdoch’s—tabloids) comes this story of a religious education teacher in Italy who terrified the five- and six-year-olds in her class with a graphic description of the Apocalypse from the book of Revelation. She was suspended by her school, but supported by Pope Benedict XVI.
A religious studies teacher suspended after her lesson on ‘good and evil’ left a classroom of children in tears has won the backing of Pope Benedict XVI.
Cristina Vai, 55, a teacher for 30 years, was disciplined after several parents complained that children had come home sobbing and frightened.
They said they were scared of her graphic description of battles between good angels and the Devil from the Book of the Apocalypse.
Some sanity--and facts--about the Mayan Long Count calendar
Yeah, it’s not as much fun as predicting the end of the world, but it is interesting. This comes from the Ottawa Citizen in Canada.
So what exactly was written in the final eight glyphs on Tortuguero Monument 6?
The Maya recorded that on Dec. 21, 2012 the 13th baktun will end. Bolon Yokte’, a god of transition associated with the ending of time periods, will witness the ceremonies conducted on this day and will be “invested,” presumably by the descendants of the king, Bahlam Ahaw. Based upon the rituals of contemporary Maya, scholars interpret this passage to mean that the future king of Tortuguero would have brought out an effigy of the god, Bolon Yokte’, dressed it in ritual clothing and placed it on display to watch the ceremonies conducted in honour of the end of the 13th baktun.
Ironically, what is missing from this passage is any mention of the end of the world. There is no catastrophe predicted and no rise of a new world order foretold.
Further, the Maya predict other events far into the future, well beyond 2012.
Man has always shown inconsistencies in anything from prophecies to the weather to politics and to medicine. Jumping the gun at times maybe from inaccurate advice, information, or even deception. We see that in politics, government, countries, and in medicine. We probably have to go back just before the inaccuracies took place and sort out the flaws/mistakes so that it's accordance to the original. The weatherman said it was going to snow this weekend, not true, but we all know it will come.
For the most part, I agree.
Human civilization will change—is changing—and the centrality of the United States as a major player in the world will end. The collapse of cultures always happens, and it happens slowly. Rome took centuries to “fall,” and even then, its culture wasn’t completely lost. I expect within my lifetime to see an “apocalypse” as the fossil-fuel-based economy and culture becomes unsustainable. It will be nasty, brutish, and long; a lot of people will die—but it’s not the sort of Armageddon I’m interested in (or rather, it’s only tangentially the sort of Armageddon I’m interested in).
The Earth will end at some point, whether that’s the result of a planet-shattering impact from another space object or the expansion of our solar system’s sun as its life cycle as a star is completed.
Humans will cease to exist, at least in our current form, at some point. Groups of us may evolve into another species or we may suffer a mass die-off as the result of a natural event or a self-created catastrophe, but homo sapiens sapiens has an expiration date on it, just like every other species.
And of course, individually, we will all die—some sooner, some later, but all of us, eventually.
That doesn’t mean there will be an apocalypse of the type promulgated by these “religious visionsaries,” “prophets,” numerologists, UFO buffs, and conspiracy theorists. These guys really bug me, mostly because all they do is scare people and amplify fears and misinformation. When they’re making money off of people’s anxiety, it’s even worse.
I’m watching CNN’s “special report” on the rumors and fears about 2012 as an apocalyptic date, and I’m rapidly losing my temper.
What a piece of crap.
Rather than examine the misinformation, hype and fearmongering in a reasonable manner, they’re just profiling people’s fears and acting as if they’re somehow rational. Yes, they’re using “qualifiers,” like “Jim believes…”—but there’s no serious debunking of these misinformed and mistaken ideas.
It’s enraging. It’s irresponsible coming from a so-called “news” organization.
Please, if you’re worried about 2012 and the Mayan Long Count calendar, go to this site and read it carefully. Do not be overwhelmed by anxiety and a culture that actually seems to get off on destruction—I call it “apocalypse porn.”
Remember, too, that worrying about an uncontrollable apocalypse keeps us from working to solve the very real problems—economic, environmental and social—that face our world.