Smiling at Doomsday: A Brief Deconstruction of Apocalyptic Myths

December 21st, 2012 is a laughing matter. As the day in which our existence is prophesized to be terminated or violently altered by a cluster bomb of planetary collisions, solar flares, and side-saddling zombies, laughter is the best option for either preparation or skepticism. At least 10-12% of the U.S. population believes that this day will be their last. But I, probably because of the intellectual arrogance I developed during my 18.5 years as a college undergraduate, am incredulous to the entire premise of this 2012 phenomenon and therefore choose to be a skeptic, a shirtless and burly and fluorescent mainstay of a man who isn’t afraid to giggle and flex against the doomsday explosions while saying, “D-Day, you pervasive charlatan, prepare for your timely deconstruction!” So leap upon my saddle-like shoulders (before the zombies do) and allow me to be your anthropomorphic steed as we gallop near truth to observe some of the most popular 2012 myths and the reasons why you should have no fear – research and logic are here.

The Mayan Countdown

The Apocalyptic Scenario:

The main spark for this whole end-of-the-world firestorm revolves around December 21st, 2012 being the end, or zero date, of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, a linear temporal register that kept time in units approximate to: 20:20 days made a uinal; 18 uinals, or 360 days, made a tun; 20 tuns made a k’atun; and 20 k’atuns made a b’ak’tun, or 394 years. According to Mayan creation accounts, we live in the fourth world; each world prior to the one we exist in ended at 13 b’ak’tuns, or 5,125 years. Unfortunately for us, we’re on the deadly verge of the fourth world’s 13th b’ak’tun, meaning we should be packing our lingerie and muskets, preparing for the ultimate going away party.

Why it’s Ever So Unlikely:

While some scholars of the early 20th century could tug their goatees and imagine catastrophe attached to this date, many present day scholars, archeologists, and NASA scientists, see zero empirical evidence to justify concern.  Furthermore, a Mayan Indian Elder of Guatemala, Miguel Chiquin, assured PULP that with the coming of December 21st and the end of the Mayan Calendar, there is nothing to worry about and all change will be positive and full of hope.  Many contemporary Elders of the Mayan tradition interpret this date not just as the end of the fourth world but the beginning of a new one, a transformation of consciousness, a mindset the ancient Mayans themselves would have subscribed to.  Its impact is comparable to the end of our 12 month calendar and the extreme revolutions that follow with every wondrous New Year’s Day. In other words, renewal is a state of mind, and if you disapprove of revolutions, nothing is going to change on December 21st except for your blood-alcohol level and expectations, either of which may be raised or lowered depending on your relationship status and affinity for global disasters.

Earthquakes and Explosions Due to Geomagnetic Reversal

The Apocalyptic Scenario:

You and your boyfriend are on an impromptu Dec. 21st hiking/camping trip (because it’s unusually warm or something) at Rocky Mountain National Park. He insists that you both veer from the intermediate path that the hiking guide recommends and “Go on a real adventure – in the woods!” Per gender stereotypes, he has no idea where the hell he’s going, yet needs no tool to direct him. Through his leadership you come across an unfrozen lake, which he falls in; an abandoned wasp nest, which he measures with his forearm, then pokes with a stick; and a derelict refrigerator that’s leaned against a Blue Spruce. Frustrated and dying for a foot massage, you tell him to stop messing about and refer to his map and compass. Eager to comply out of excitement for your participation, he removes the compass from his damp man-pack and gazes at it. Fear dilates his pupils. The compass needle spins clockwise in a dizzying frenzy and immediately stops, pointing due south. Before he can turn around to explain the wacky antics of his brother’s navigational accessory, the ground begins to rumble as his head explodes into a rainbow mist that paints the trembling trees vibrant.

Why it’s Ever So Unlikely:

            Geomagnetic Reversal, besides sounding like a third-string evasive wrestling technique employed by members of the U.S. Geological Survey, is a flip in the Earth’s polarity: north becomes south while your confidence becomes insecurity. And because her magnetic field likes to move to the heavy metal beat of her liquid metal core, shifts within the Earth’s core create electric currents that contribute to her perpetual magnetism as well as the “flip.” This flip generally takes place about every 200,000 to 300,000 years (but last occurred nearly 800,000 years ago) over the duration of hundreds of thousands of years and, the biosphere as my witness, hasn’t seemed to wipe out all life quite yet. The process is so gradual that if you had a compass gripped in your hands during this event, well, you wouldn’t even be aware that the reversal was taking place. No hyperactive compass. No earthquakes. No sparkling, polychromatic head explosions. The truth is your boyfriend would probably just follow the unaffected compass into a cave where a family of bears, awake and confused over the unusually warm winter, awaits with the intent to heartily cuddle (with their teeth).

A Black Hole Devours Our Planet Due to Galactic Alignment

The Apocalyptic Scenario:

Besides the dread and destruction caused from her periodic natural disasters, Earth is a benevolent matriarch to those who take pride of place upon her surface. Like a celestial supermodel, she parades around the Sun with her orbital path acting as a runway illuminated by the afterglow of deceased royalty, the stars we infinitely ponder. She loves her family, the planets with which she shares her infinite catwalk, and especially cherishes her hydrogen and helium caretaker. But all this love will do nothing to shield her from the Sun’s secret plot to disrupt her orbit. With the Earth’s North Pole tipping away as his cue, the Sun forces each planet into alignment, like servants in a galactic slave auction, and awaits his orders. Then, without sinister indication, the Sun, in fellowship with the gravitational pull of a black hole, decreases his mass to influence gravity and force Earth closer to the galactic center of our universe, where said black hole, Sagittarius A*, anticipates his offering with voracious eyes.


Why it’s Ever So Unlikely:

Like claiming that an intermittent knee to the groin is therapeutic, this scenario makes no scientific sense even without my hyperbolic rendition. Contrary to doomsday hype, Galactic Alignment actually refers to the alignment of the Sun, the Earth, and the center of our galaxy, not the planets; it takes place every winter solstice to some degree but hasn’t occurred with precision – when the center of the sun lines up accurately with the determined location of the Milky Way’s galactic equator – since 1998 and isn’t scheduled for 2012. And even though Sagittarius A*, the black hole starving at the galactic center, does exist, it’s 165 quadrillion miles (30,000 light years) away, meaning that our little moon has more gravitational authority simply because it’s closer and more handsome. So, worry not about being offered up as a sacrifice by our Sun to some spooky space glutton; focus more on feeding an undernourished kitten or pacifying a wailing toddler of ambiguous ethnicity — activities that’ll surely suppress all contemplations of being served as a galactic main course.

A Global All-You-Can-Eat Due to a Zombie Outbreak

The Apocalyptic Scenario:



Why it’s Ever So Unlikely:

The CDC released an official statement this past June to alleviate fears of a zombie outbreak, after Rudy Eugene was killed by police officers while chewing off Ronald Poppos’ face, a homeless man in Miami: They do not know of any virus or condition that could cause a human corpse to establish zombie-like systems.

But let’s disavow that knowledge for a moment and play with the idea of the walking dead. If they do spring from the sewers and graves of Colorado on the 21st, they don’t stand a biting chance against our collection of magnificence. Now, as a back-flipping fan of most things zombie, it stings my cheeks to say this: zombies are an undead personification of failure; they’re physiologically designed for inadequacy from the moment of conception, when they begin traipsing for blood, brains, and a sense of belonging. A zombie is, by most definitions, an animated freaking corpse. And with that in mind, recall some of the advantages we have over them for simply maintaining a pulse – a functioning body system (most notably the nervous and skeletal system), an ego that welcomes the challenge and passionate annihilation of competition, and hunting licenses (or the desire to own a gun and shoot things with the fundamental precision of a space marine).

Let’s take one of these attributes, a functioning skeletal system, and determine why zombies suck the twelve-gauge for being too dead to have one: skeletal remodeling. Whether you’re performing weighted squat thrusts to increase the charm of your thighs or dashing up a flight of steps to steal a glimpse of that shirtless braggart who used to work at Abercrombie, your bones are undergoing stress. Via chemical signals that call upon or block osteoclasts and osteoblasts, bone remodeling units, your bones become thicker, stronger, and less likely to fracture during spins kicks and down-on-one-knee marriage proposals. Since zombies lack blood flow and are unable to produce blood within their bone marrow, their bones do not remodel. The stress their skeletal system accrued while alive has not been repaired after their zombification, which means that the panicked force of a pimp slap combined with the zombie’s lumbering weight would be enough to leave it a crumbled, groaning assortment of incompetence on the pavement.

Well, maybe not.

But at least you’d still have your ego and hunting license.

Not Hype Enough


My narcissism tells me you’re thinking it, so I’m just going to puff up my chest and say it: What the hell is up with all this unabashed doomsday hype? Understandably, doomsayers have a prophet (I mean “profit”) to maintain by keeping a minority of the population soiled in fear. Sales in books, esoteric provisions, and even blast shelters – which have doubled in the past 5 years and cost between $400,000 and $41 million to build and install – are proof that distress bound to any issue can be lucrative. And though they are partially responsible for perpetuating fear to their advantage, utilizing the internet and the Media Industrial Complex, they play on our contribution to the hype: our eagerness and audacity to accept it.

First, we literally buy into it because it is dangerous entertainment, like naked skydiving or drunken bullfighting, but with the thrill of possible harm replaced with the thrill of purchasing power. We live recklessly by shopping recklessly, and nothing stimulates our right to buy stuff we might find useful like extinction suggesting that THIS MAY BE YOUR LAST CHANCE! YOU CAN’T SHOP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD! And so we purchase that three-in-one “lawnmower/anti-tank turret/portable beauty salon combo” to fill a space occupied by want, fear, and uncertainty; for on the off chance that the world really is on the verge of shambles, we wish to brazenly say that we kicked our regrets in their bucked teeth and were as prepared as circumstances would allow.

Second, we yearn to be crucial, important. And nothing overstates our importance as dramatically as being alive to witness our planet’s demise. If you’re religious or slightly spiritual, it’s like you were chosen for annihilation by a higher power. That ultimately proves it – something magical exists and it chose us! If you function purely on rationality and empirical evidence, you consider yourself lucky (or incredibly unfortunate) because the event took place regardless of the astronomical odds against it. Either way, we feel special, in a perverse kind of way. And sometimes we need that.

Third, and far from last, we need a distraction (which the media is ecstatic to provide) from the real-life concerns that seem too complex and impossible to remediate. Rather than focusing on stagnant wages or the fact that 1 in 2 Americans are either in poverty or near the poverty line and figuring out solutions, we focus on the fun and fantastical. As terrifying as global annihilation is, it’s far more interesting, immediate, and provocative than contemplating the hardships of struggling Americans.

Notwithstanding our acceptance to the hype, I anticipate December 21st with warmth, optimism, and humor. And I hope that, no matter the outcome, we can band together in support and take a moment to smile at the absurdity of it all.

And in case we never see each other again: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By Jedediah Hoy

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