It’s After the End of the World…Don’t You Know That Yet?

I spent my childhood going to an evangelical church and was taught that the apocalypse was just around the corner: beasts rising up from the sea, Satan, 666 on your forehead. The whole shebang, and all very literal – no room for metaphor. I could never swallow the doctrine and stopped going as soon as I could effect a strong enough resistance to my parents. Forcing me to go to church was a bigger pain in the ass to my parents than just letting me sleep in and after a while, they stopped going too.

I abandoned all of that spooky fundamentalist nonsense, but I wasn’t able to leave behind a perverse love for apocalyptic scenarios: zombies, alien invaders, nuclear bombs, you name it. While other kids played Army men and cowboys and Indians, I played “End of the World”. Hauling around our machetes and BB guns, we pretended to be survivors of an unnamed eschaton: Forts were built, supplies scavenged, mutants were dispatched. In retrospect, it was a particularly American fascination; the product of fundamentalist End Time prophecy and escalating militarism. Jesus was coming, and he was bringing a heavenly host of MX intercontinental missiles with him. It was only a matter of time.

As I got older, I started investigating the “end of world” as a concept. I started asking questions like “What do you mean by ‘end’? Can you define ‘world’?” After reading books like Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture, Alex Heard’s Apocalypse Pretty Soon, and Norman Cohn’s In Pursuit of the Millennium, I came to the conclusion that by ‘world’ and ‘world’, most people mean the cessation of human civilization as we know it. It’s an egotistical, humancentric notion that’s frightening and seductive at the same time. We long for life and death in equal measure, but why?

Expanding on the egotistical portion of my argument, I suggest that our pseudo-lust for the end of the world stems from our awareness of death. All of us know that the our personal apocalypse is coming. The MX missile of mortality is just peaking the horizon, and the bomb shelter we’ve built may not be strong enough, be it constructed of great earthly works (Ozymandias, anyone?) or religious belief. We’re going to die, and it’s inconceivable to imagine that life could go on without us. Instead, maybe it should go with us: “Après moi, le déluge

Another date for the supposed apocalypse (or transition or whatever you’d like to call it) has come and gone. (Believe me, there have been a lot of them, too.) It’s been a laugh, for most of us, but this could be an opportune time to reflect on our selfishness and short-sightedness as a species. We don’t need the Mayans, Jesus or Zombies (or Zombie Mayan Jesus) to pull the cord on this strange, beautiful world: We can do it ourselves, and we may be well on the way to doing so. We can, and must, stop our headlong plunge into oblivion; replace our fear, anger and hatred with courage, patience and a sense of brotherhood. This little ball of dirt is all we’ve got. Isn’t it time we start treating it like the fragile miracle it is?

If we work hard enough, this can be the end of the world, or at least the world we know. It’s after the end of the world. Don’t you know that yet?

20 Comments on "It’s After the End of the World…Don’t You Know That Yet?"

  1. mannyfurious | Dec 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm |

    People are seduced by apocalyptic scenarios because it’s frightening, on a mostly subconscious level, to know that the world will go on with you. You are not special, at least in that sense. You will die, and it will either be today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, next decade or whatever. And instead of stopping, the world will go on, and all those people still alive, including your descendents, will forget you ever existed. Great books and movies and songs that you probably would’ve enjoyed will be made. Great and wonderful and terrible things will happen and you’ll miss out on all of it.

    That’s a terrible thing for a lot of people to have to deal with. But instead of getting all existential about things, this primitive, archetypical fear often times manifests itself in these sorts of ways– a bunch of harebrained geeks picking random, man-made, ultimately meaningless dates to develop entire end-of-days mythologies around.

    • You know the old saying about putting your pants on one leg at a time? I like to tell people they aren’t special by telling them that their kids will stop bringing flowers to their grave six months after they die, just like everybody else.

  2. I see your Sun Ra and offer some Medeski, Scofield, Martin and wood: In Case The World Changes Its Mind

    As for breaking conditioning, the end of the world, and such. I say I am thankful for the opportunity to cast aside the nonsense provided. It has helped me to be open with seeing more nonsense, and provided the strength to rid myself of it.

    As for the end of the world, or anything at all. I have no control over what happens to me, but I have the power to let go and accept.

  3. I’m enjoying your personal essays. I actually was raised as a Liberal Protestant but became a Fundamentalist in the Army. It seemed like a good idea at the time, I was with a pretty rough bunch and needed an escape. Church was nicer than the infantry barracks and I was able to meet some nice girls and be around people that weren’t violent alcoholics for a change.

    Years later, after Bible college and getting married I was excommunicated for questioning Young Earth Creationism. But interestingly enough I later became interested in Peak Oil and Primitivist Anarchism. It seems I just can’t get away from the Apocalypse!

  4. At schools in Pinellas County, Fla., students aren’t paying for lunch with cash or a card, but with a wave of their hand over a palm scanner. Strong’s Number: 5516
    Transliterated: chi xi stigma
    Phonetic: khee xee stig’-ma
    Text: the 22d, 14th and an obsolete letter (4742 as a cross) of the Greek alphabet (intermediate between the 5th and 6th), used as numbers; denoting respectively 600, 60 and 6; 666 as a numeral: –six hundred threescore and six.

    Strong’s Number: 4742
    Transliterated: stigma
    Phonetic: stig’-mah
    Text: from a primary stizo (to “stick”, i.e. prick); a mark incised or punched (for recognition of ownership), i.e. (figuratively) scar of service: –mark.

    The prophecies of the bible always come to pass. Anyone who says its the end of the world however does not have a clear understanding of scripture. We are not nearing the end of the world, but rather the end of the age. A time of the ending of human government, When we will crown Jesus Christ King of Kings and lord of lords. It does not matter what you believe, the pages of the book are coming to pass before our very eyes. If you don’t see it its because you don’t want to. It doesn’t make it any less real to shut your eyes.

  5. DeepCough | Dec 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

    The match between Cthulhu and Quetzlcoatl ended in a draw.

  6. Anarchy Pony | Dec 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

    Anybody’s consciousness shift yet?

  7. lifobryan | Dec 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm |

    I grew up in an evangelical fundamentalist church, and spent much of my childhood in fear of the Rapture. The pastor very much believed that we were living in the End Times, and he would thunder on & on about the more sensational aspects of apocalypse: oceans filling with blood, the sun darkening, plagues, famine, earthquakes, war, etc. (And “liberals & queers” too …. they always seemed to be involved somehow).

    Looking back on this time, through the lens of the many subsequent “end times” that have since come and gone, it is certainly easy to see it all as a mass psycho-dramatic projection of one’s own fears of personal mortality.

    But there was something else, something nastier, lurking in the collective psyche of the church …. both my rural baptist church (on Muskrat Road … not kidding), and the larger fundamentalist culture.

    Not only was the world going to end horribly …. but the “Chosen” would get to watch & cheer on the boiling carnage. And by jeebus, it would be good riddance too! Jeebus would rebuild the world (properly this time … without all the liberals & queers). And We the Chosen would rule that world with Him & his shiny white fist.

    I remember hearing Ian Paisley speak on the End Times at a church service … and he said he prayed that he would be the one chosen to rule Northern Ireland. And he was serious.

    Anyway, I see your Sun Ra, and raise you Ghost, by way of the Beatles and Kenneth Anger:

  8. It’s actually quite arrogant to apply Judeo-Christian philosophy of the apocalypse to a calendar created by people with an entirely different perspective on the passage of time. Crossing linear eschatology with a cyclical calendar will yield these ridiculous interpretations of the ‘end of the world’. There’s always an omega point in monotheism–a singular point in time where things monumentally shift. That kind of thinking shows the juvenile impatience of a very young Western philosophical tradition. One day the West will grow up, collectively let go of their material, linear obsessions and learn to square the circle.

  9. Where do you find these fucking crazy movies Matt?

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