It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine

There are some topics which completely perplex me, and this is certainly one of them. It seems strange to me for many reasons why people subscribe to the

From http://www.hydramag.com

possibility of the world ending in a sudden almighty purge.  This post has been a long time coming and I am sure I will not blow many people’s minds with anything I say here, but I will try to address the topic a more serious tone rather than the rant I feel like doing.

This post was prompted by an article my colleague quite humorously ranted about on Facebook about the blood moon being an indication of the end of the world. I quote: “People, it’s a freaking rock, orbiting a slightly wetter rock, orbiting a hot mess called the Sun! Shadows happen!” This end of the world prediction is just one in another line of many that have been made in human history. This Wikipedia listing gives a pretty good run down of whom and when end of the world predictions were made and you can see that there are around 150 listed in addition to ones that are supposed to still happen.  I am also sure there have been many more in human history that have not been documented. Most rational people would wonder why anyone would still buy into any more predictions about the end of the world when none of them have come true before. You know the whole “fool me once shame on you, fool me 150 times…” But it’s not enough to say well it’s obvious that these people with apocalyptic imaginations are wrong, the fact that they keep popping up should tell us that there is something in our psychology that causes some people to subscribe to such scenarios.

I read an interesting article in a great journal called Daedalus called Apocalypse and The End of Time by Richard Fenn who tried to analyze a lot of the commonalities between end of the world predictions and what societal influences seem to make them most likely. These are some of the things he came up with:

  • Many apocalyptic predictions come from people who feel society is in moral decay. This can arise from greater secularism in society, or because one culture feels that they are being influenced by an outside culture. Both of these represent cultural shifts in which an old way is being replaced by a new way.
  • Decreased economic conditions and oppression (or perceived oppression as is often the case by more religious zealots).
  • A fear of change in general. The young , people who think for themselves, and in more patriarchal societies, women all can represent a change to a current way of life.

Of course many of these things are interrelated and I think we can easily see how many of these things boil down simply to change and our inability to deal with an increasingly complex world. Thus it is not completely surprising to me that those who are more prone to believing in a fixed set of rules that govern the universe which are immutable and prescribed by the supernatural are also more likely to subscribe to end of the world predictions. As a scientist, to me change seems natural and inevitable and though some change is less pleasant than others I hope that the world will be propelled forward more than it is pulled backward.

For those who know me, you also know how fascinated I am with the subject of time, and, to me, time is also the study of change. Thus it comes as no surprise that Fenn argues that the apocalyptic imagination is an attempt to move away from the passage of time. With this timelessness we also lose change. We also lose individuality. Many of the apocalyptic prophecies involve the destruction of corrupting influences and the preservation of those who fit a prescribed moral code, merging with the one true God. Thus this desire for end times also perhaps plays to our psychological desire to remove complexity from the world to some harmonious state of peace in which nothing is changing and everyone is like everybody else.

And I can understand this desire.

There are plenty of times in which I wish I could freeze a moment and time and make it last longer. There are times in which I wish the world wasn’t so difficult, that there was no pain and suffering, and that I didn’t have to argue and fight.  This of course is fantasy. And fantasy has its place and I believe we need it from time to time to stay sane. Adhering to a fantasy for a prolonged length of time, however, is insanity. More importantly we should not forget that there is real beauty in change. The fact that I am an example of change, from a fertilized cell to a grown 40 year old man, that I have strived to learn and grow wiser and more moral with time, indicates that change can be a good thing. Change is inevitable, so let’s not fight change, let’s keep fighting to make things better. We still have a long way to go.

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14 thoughts on “It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine

  1. Interesting bit about that secular world eroding the religious one. I always find the idea of concrete morality to be an interesting one. I highly doubt that anyone who trumpets the idea that “morality is in decay” really has ever put much thought into what exactly morality is, how it’s created, and how we use it. I suspect that the “moral decay” argument is really just an attempt to maintain a power dynamic; men over women, whites over blacks, etc.

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    1. Haha…perhaps I should, but I do like to think about what might be the root to some of the more extreme viewpoints that are expressed in today’s information age and social media. At my heart I believe we are all the same, only that through nurture and nature some of us are swept more in one direction than another leading to a wide and sometimes extreme world view. So I like to see if I can go back and understand the heart of the matter. 🙂

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  2. Swarn,

    For once (or maybe a few times) I am not going be my polite poised tactful self. These prophetic individuals who continually prostate these comings of apocalyptic endings, in being wrong so often – Might do well in changing the venue to when they – themselves might expire. This would give most of us a nice chuckle instead of our eyes rolling, stating, another end of the world moment – should we all get drunk or just have a hell of a night of great sex?

    Sent from Windows Mail

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  3. Understanding the heart of the matter would individualistic with some similar threads running in a deep delusions religious factor.
    For some reason, beyond the study of logic and religion, I see religion often forms a crutch of belief instead of viewing life in a broader horizon of opportunity. The mind and emotions travel wayward in to dooms-day scenarios.
    We have seen this eventuality causation through out our lives, the ending of the Mayan calendar, the last Pope to be elected, the death of Jesus and some believe the after life for only Jesus in the resurrection. All convoluted
    Ergo, those who have limited thinking and possibly limited education and closed off reading material, which to predict the end of the world scenarios.
    Or they wish to end the world for they cannot dump the manure gather each day of emotions and dump it as I do with my horses. LOLOL
    Either way, I am pleased to stated not having a TV lends to better standards of what my brain receives as input each day, filtering these nonsensical musings of irrational thought.
    Getting off my hubris soap box lolol

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    1. I love your soapboxes MicheleElys. But nobody begins that way…one has to journey into this sort of madness and zealotry. And I don’t think it has to start as a child either. I have seen adults through their lives go from normal, even secular thinking to becoming doomsday believers. I am interested in how one begins this journey and why.

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  4. Ignorance, fear, mob mentality, all play a part in these end of days predictions. As well as the likliehood of our modern day shaman to recieve a chicken for the pot. They know what they do.

    Michele, I think we should lump your notions together…a night of boozing and good sex 🙂 I can’t think of a better way to face the end of the world as we know it. If the morrow faces us with a new day, all the better…

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    1. I agree that there are certainly charlatans out there and obviously there is ignorance as well, but there are also a lot of ignorant people out there who still don’t subscribe to such predictions, at least not as vehemently as some do. A desire for things to end I think is a natural feeling, it’s just that desire for existence as we know it to end seems a bit extreme. So it makes me curious to understand why.

      Boozing and good sex make sense even without the end of the world coming! lol

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      1. The desire for things to end…IMO is displayed well by the terminally ill, or those doomed to the death sentence of long term care, those majorly depressed, and x-ian dominionist types who have an instilled belief that come judgement day they have a front row seat in heaven where they can look down in glee at all of those unholy bastards getting their due.

        All but that last one I can sympathize with…

        …so where is this boozing and sexing party going to be, and the date /time would be helpful. 🙂

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        1. I don’t know. I think the desire for things to end are in a lot more than those people. People get depressed about things for all sorts of reasons. They commit suicide or have suicidal thoughts. This desire exists also on smaller scales such as wanting a relationship to end, or some period in your life to end. The desire for things to end often is very driven by a desire for things to be started anew. Like winter, moving into spring. On a very basic level you could say that an apocalyptic vision is about end the old and starting new…whether that be in some paradise on a supernatural plane, another planet, or just a rebuilding of civilization in a better way than it has been built now. I mean the real thing is that just like any change that one wants to see happen, you must be an active part of it. Want a relationship to end…well YOU need to end it. Want to be done with school and move on to getting a job, the wife and kids, and all that jazz, well YOU have to make it happen. So while the fantasy may have some valid psychological basis, the error is that most often these people are often using the fantasy as an excuse to not actually make the world a better place themselves. I mean because if you could…wouldn’t you actually want the world to not be destroyed? Wouldn’t someone…like Jesus (or whatever religion one might subscribe to) want to give the world a second chance? To sacrifice, to struggle, to toil? So many more people could be born if the world goes on and those people would have a chance of having the paradise that you think is important. If there was a God and I felt like he wanted to destroy the world, I would surely offer myself up as a sacrifice so the world could go on. There is a lot of beauty in it that is worth preserving. 🙂

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          1. Ahh, I think I see your perspective a bit better now. There may be some inherent trait that drives us towards a desire to renew at several layers. I certainly have experienced these feelings among the mundane issues. I know all too well that some road trips with the kids in the car cannot end soon enough… (recent experience, first thing that came to mind)

            I suffer from chronic pain issues. A by product of using the strength of my back to support my family for as long as I can remember. There are days that the thought of it all just being over would be a welcome relief. Though I would not in a thousand years do anything to hasten its arrival. I still have much to do, and a lot of good things to keep me going.

            As far as sacrificing ones self for the betterment of the world at large, one that contains my kids and loved ones, and is breathtakingly beautiful everywhere you look… Yeah, I feel like if I had the option, I would gladly sacrifice myself to see it all be able to continue. For that matter, sign me up for the the 1st mission to Mars. Sign me up, put me on the 1st rocket ship heading beyond our solar system. I know it would be a one way ticket, but damn that be one helluva ride 🙂 I’d make the sacrifice just to further our knowledge in the things unknown.

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            1. Exactly! I feel like those with apocalyptic visions are essentially those people who have given up; who refuse to continue to strive for a better world and are ready to be taken away to some mythical paradise.

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