Wednesday, February 24, 2010
COLUMN: End of Days
Well, it's finally happened. I've received my first threatening letter from a deranged fan.
I knew it was just a matter of time. I am, after all, a Super Important Writer of Much Importance. And when you have such a massive legion of fans built up, there's bound to be a crackpot or two in the mix. I just opened my mail and there's a letter here threatening my physical safety in the days to come. Better hand it over to the authorities, I guess. Let's just see who the crackpot is that's making some threats... oh, I see. It's some guy named "God."
When I opened it up, I expected the usual "Dear Shane, you are so super awesome" yada yada "want to have your babies" yada yada "handsome, sexy hunk of" yada. Instead I get this:
"THE END OF THE WORLD IS ALMOST HERE! HOLY GOD WILL BRING JUDGMENT DAY ON MAY 21, 2011!"
Well, then. I guess that's that. At least God was nice enough to wait until AFTER the finale of "Lost."
The rest of the letter, which appears to be photocopied and is likely being sent to a goodly portion of the world, explains the "infallible proof" that the world as we know it is coming to an end.
It turns out that there's a California-based ministry called Family Stations that's led by an 88-year-old retired civil engineer named Harold Camping. He's the guy who, through careful Biblical analysis, has determined the exact date of the End of Days. How he figured it out is beyond me - I'm no good at math. But apparantly you can backtrack through all the Biblical begat-s to determine that the great Noachian flood happened in 4990 BC. 2 Peter states that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years." God tells Noah that he's sending the flood in 7 days. 7 days = 7000 years. 4990 BC + 7000 years = 2011 A.D. Noah's flood lifted on his 600th year, second month, and seventeenth day. Allowing for calendar changes between Biblical times and the modern era, the 17th day of the 2nd month of the 7000th year is May 21st, 2011.
It's just that easy, logical, and completely bat-guano. Plus, it's a Saturday, so at least our work week won't be disrupted by a pesky plague of locusts.
Mr. Camping spreads his prophecies o' doom via his Family Radio Network (and what a great name, too, because nothing says family fun quite like seas turning to blood, eh?) He published a rather comprehensive book some years ago detailing his prophecy for Armageddon. Just one problem -- in THAT book, his Doomsday was September 6, 1994. On that date, Camping and his followers gathered to bear witness to... a rather routine Tuesday, with nary a flying horseman in sight. That's when Camping sheepishly admitted a "math error," declared an Apocalypse mulligan, and announced May 21st 2011 for the do-over.
This would be bad news to the Mayan empire, who -- as we've been seeing on countless cable channel specials designed to scare the bejeebies out of us -- long ago predicted what some think is the end of the world. The Mayans were pretty good at predictions, except when it came to predicting the premature and unexplained collapse of their own society. What they left behind, though, was a primitive calendar system that makes just about as much sense at Harold Camping.
In the calendar we know, 30 days (roughly) = one month. In the Mayan long count calendar, 20 days make a uinal, 18 uinals make a tun, 20 tuns make a k'atun, and 20 k'atuns make up a b'ak'tun, as commemorated by Neil Simon in his lesser-known play "Same Time Next B'ak'tun." But instead of a Happy New B'ak'tun being a big party in Times Square, there's Mayan lore that at the end of the 13th B'ak'tun, something, err, signifigant would happen. Something signifigant enough that most of the ancient calendars don't have a 14th B'ak'tun. It just sorta stops at 13.
The last day of the 13th B'ak'tun works out to be December 23, 2012. Actually, we've already seen what's gonna happen then. L.A. will slide into the ocean, Yellowstone will erupt, an aircraft carrier will take out the White House, and our future lies entirely in the hands of John Cusack. Just so long as its not Tom Cruise, I'm kinda okay with it.
So who's right? Is it Harold Camping and we're hosed in just over a year? Is it the Mayans and we've got a couple years to prep for Armageddon? Or is it this pesky God fellow, whose Bible says that we "do not know on what day your Lord will come...so you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him."
As the professional consumate journalist that I am, I wanted to do my own investigating, and I've discovered yet ANOTHER potential End of Days, this one foretold from another ancient source of wisdom ahead of its time. I speak, of course, of the Modern Woodmen of America.
I received a Christmas card at the office this year from the Modern Woodmen home office, and inside of it is a shiny new desk calendar that's come in quite handy this year (moral of the story: I like free stuff.) But as I stared at this calendar pondering the Apocalypse, I flipped past February into March... April... and kept going. You will not believe what I discovered.
My courtesy Modern Woodmen of America calendar STOPS... on December 31st, 2010. It just ends, with nary a hint of January 2011's existence. So I went to a bookstore that night where hundreds of calendars were on sale. ALL OF THEM stopped on the same day. December 31st, 2010. In fact, they went as far as to call themselves "2010 Calendars," as though 2011 simply will not happen. Clearly, the world has caught on to Modern Woodmen's predictions. Fraternal life insurance society and banking institution... or mystic seers predicting the end of humanity? I could only do one thing.
I sent an emergency e-mail to my friend Tina who works at Woodmen's home office.
"What gives?" I wrote. "Mayan calendar ends on 12/23/12 and end of world is predicted. My Woodmen calendar ends on 12/31/10. Are you Woodpeople harboring the secret knowledge of Armageddon?"
"Look again," she replied. "At the top right-hand corner of the December 2010 page." Sure enough, there, in tiny print, was a handy one-month extension covering January 2011. "So I think as far as we Woodpeople go," she wrote, "you're safe."
Whew. Three Apocalypses is enough for this guy to worry about without a fourth getting in the way. I guess it's just a coincidence that 2010 calendars expire at the end of 2010. We're gonna have at least a year and a half to worry about the end of time. John Cusack's gonna have himself one boring year.