Thursday, January 6, 2011

Apocalypse Now? Eh, Probably Not

I've heard a lot of theories about the recent bird and fish deaths.  Fireworks, power lines, alien spacecraft, super-secret government projects, global warming, etc.  For most people, this is an interesting and creepy mystery, something that could be (but not necessarily IS) a sign of a problem.  But there are a few others who are convinced that this is a sign of the apocalypse.  Some people mention it laughingly, some nervously.  I mean, this is a mysterious, odd event--what else could it be?

When I was a child, my parents watched a video about Nostradamus.  The narrator had a pretty convincing argument, based on Nostradamus' prophesies, that the world would end in the year 2000.  I was terrified.  I spent half of my life afraid of the coming apocalypse of 2000.  By the time I got to high school, I had (mostly) dismissed this, but near my Senior year, the Y2K scare started.  Computers would fail.  Bombs would go off.  The world was pretty much a goner. 

January 1, 2000.  12:01 a.m.:  Nadda

It didn't take long, of course, for a new fear to start rising: 2012.  Despite a brief resurgence in popularity on 9/11, Nostradamus was soon replaced by the Mayans.  The problem?  Aside from the facts that the Mayans never said the world would end and modern Mayans have no clue what these doomsayers are talking about, our understanding of the calendar itself may be wrong.  Oops.

Anyway, the Mayans are old news.  Now some Christians have determined a new doomsday: October 21, 2011, though the righteous get to go to heaven sooner, of course.  But hey, at least we won't be here for the terror of the Mayan apocalypse, right?  Take that, pesky heathens!

The truth is that humans have long been obsessed with the end of the world.  At the turn of the year 1,000, people were also terrified that the world would end.  Strange cavemen probably drew dire images on rocks and stood along popular hunting trails.  Unexplained phenomena only heighten this natural obsession.  Solar and lunar eclipses used to be considered a sign of the apocalypse or at least Something Very Bad.  Now we go out and watch them as cool celestial events (well, as much as one can watch a solar eclipse).  Times, and our knowledge, change.

Are the dead birds and fish a sign of the apocalypse?  Who knows?  As I resolved at the start of the year, I am not going to be ruled by fear anymore.  The world may end in five seconds or last until the Sun becomes a red giant (~4-5 million years, anyone?).  What can we do about it either way?  Not a darn thing. 

Enjoy debating the bird/fish thing, but don't let it rule you.

1 comment:

  1. To clarify, I don't think it is a bad idea to debate whether these events have an environmental or other physical cause. I'm just not a fan of apocalyptic scares.