The World Didn’t End . . . Did We Want it to?

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December 22, 2012 by Devin

It occurs to me that December 21st, 2012, was a bit of a letdown for a lot of people. Sure, few people actually believed that there was going to be an apocalypse then and that the world would actually end, but there is a reason it stuck around in the public consciousness for so long, and that reason has nothing to do with the Mayans.

The thought of wanting the world to end sounds a bit suicidal, but that is not the feeling I want to get at. Suicidal feelings often have to do with not feeling at place in this world and wanting to be recognized for something, while apocalyptic desires have to do with something else: the desire for a satisfying ending.

Now, I am just musing here, but could it be that the reason the apocalypse is such a prevalent topic is because we want that kind of ending to our world. A Mayan apocalypse would be different and exciting as opposed to the normal mundane existence of most people’s lives, and in my experience, we often value endings more middles.

Apocalyptic literature is fascinating, mainly because this was literature written by people wondering, “How will it all go down?” Apocalypse literature shows the values and beliefs a culture has now by showing what they think will happen in the future. Is it any surprise that the idea of a Rapture that takes all the proper believers up to Heaven while leaving the non-believers on Earth is popular among the increasingly territorial Christian right? I, personally, am particularly fond of the Norse apocalypse where all the gods get into one big fight that kills them all and restarts the world.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse is perhaps one of the most striking images to come out of Revelation.

It occurs to me that for many people, this particular Earth and this particular setting is just a stage that will pass. I am not just talking about religious people who believe in an afterlife here. The zombie apocalypse has become as much fantasy as it has horror. People fantasize about how to survive should society crumble, government fail, and dead rise, though often in film and other media the survivors do not survive for long. Perhaps this obsession with this area is a comment on how people do not trust the government, their fellow man, or even their own survival skills. This zombie fantasy is a fantasy, but it is a bleak one showcasing a general pessimism.

Going along these lines, it could be that people view an apocalypse like this as a call to action rather than an ending. Society is often not fun, but we are stuck in it. There are so many rigid boundaries set up by society that people feel like they cannot escape from them without a destruction of the system. Look at how many apocalypse movies and games feature a character who was awkward in civilized society but flourished in the apocalyptic society. I think, to an extent, most people feel that way, as if they do not quite fit in with where they are at.

I do not think society is suicidal, but I do think that there is a general dissatisfaction with the current state of things. People want society to change, want their values to be emphasized over other people’s values, and want their lives to become exciting and different. Sure, if everyone just died, that would be boring and anti-climactic, but people do not imagine the apocalypse that way. Honestly, what we want from an apocalypse shows a lot about what we want from life.

Click a link for an explanation of the Mayan calendar and why it's not an apocalypse.

Click a link for an explanation of the Mayan calendar and why it’s not an apocalypse.

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