When the world didn’t end this last December as the Mayans allegedly predicted with their calendar (or lack thereof), we typed out tweets of relief and and resilience. Take that, Mayans! Think you can wipe us out so easily with your mystic numbers? December 21 inspired gaudy parties, drinking games and probably a decent amount of reckless abandon, including shopping sprees and emotionally charged confessions. It was, after all, the last night of existence. However, the next morning, the only things that were obliterated were our livers and maybe our egos.
This isn’t the first time people have presented the world with evidence of our impending doom. Historically, we have been endlessly fascinated by the possibility and entertained it with warnings and wide-spread panic. The apocalypse has been predicted by religious zealots, philosophers and physicists, psychic readers, and alien advocates since the dawn of time. People have relied on religion, astronomy, the economy and aliens to back up their reasoning behind the hypothesized end of the world. Pop culture has made millions of dollars off of the idea. Writers can’t stop coming up with all these scenarios where earth gets taken over by space creatures, or societies collapse into dust (2012, Knowing, The Road, Dr. Strangelove, etc.). And why exactly are we so naturally fascinated with the apocalypse? Is it because of our innate fear of death? Are we so afraid to die alone that we yearn for united death? Let’s look into a very much condensed timeline (there were doomsday predictions almost every single year, even before Jesus came into the picture) that depicts when and why the world was supposed to end, but didn’t.
2800 B.C. – An ancient Assyrian clay tablet was found, and it allegedly predicted the end of the world that year by stating, “Bribery and corruption are rampant. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book. The end of the world is approaching.” Sounds like every cranky grandma and grandpa in the world, ever.
634 B.C. – The Romans feared their city would be destroyed in the 120th year of its founding. This concern was due to a myth concerning 12 mystical eagles that represented the lifetime of Rome; early Romans hypothesized that each eagle represented ten years. Unfortunately for Rome, the empire did indeed decline, but the eagles had nothing to do with it.
1st Century – Baby Jesus was born and eventually stated, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death ’til they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) Essentially, he implied that the Second Coming would be an event held sometime soon.
1284 – Pope Innocent III predicted a Second Coming this year, exactly 666 years after the rise of Islam!
1524 – A planetary alignment in Pisces was seen as a sign of the millennium, and therefore a flood, because why not?
1600 – Martin Luther, an important religious figure in history, believed that the end of the world would occur no later than 1600.
The world stayed intact, more or less. Let’s jump to modern times.
1973 – David Berg (aka Moses David) guru of The Children of God, predicted that the United States would be destroyed by Comet Kohoutek in 1973.
1980 – Leland Jenses, founder of Bahais, predicted a nuclear holocaust. When that didn’t happen, he rationalized that this date was merely the beginning of the Tribulation. In 1987, he then decided it would be Haley’s comet that would take us all out. That didn’t happen either.
It was around this time, that prophets began selling their books on the end(s) of the world because apocalypses sell, apparently.
1997 – Heaven’s Gate, a religious cult based in San Diego, believed Comet Hale-Bopp was going to destroy the earth. Convinced that alien spaceships were tailing right behind the comet, 39 members committed suicide in order to escape the reign of alien terror and destruction of human life.
Doomsday leaders began exercising their HTML skills and creating visual websites for those who were interested in their fate. Is this website not amazing?
2000 – Days before the New Year, millions of people were scrambling in order to backup their computers, in fear of the Y2K bug which would destroy all data ever created, thus causing the ultimate global collapse of the economy. Many believed that Y2K was all part of God’s plan to smite us when we were at our weakest. Luckily, all the computers were smart enough to restart and nothing actually happened.
2001 – In September, one of the most devastating attacks on U.S. soil occurred. Strangely enough, no one predicted this economic and emotional disaster. Except Radiohead, according to Chuck Klosterman, in Killing Yourself To Live. But that’s another story.
2006 – An anonymous internet prophet claimed February 12th of that year would be the height of the Antichrist’s power. He or she also revealed that the Antichrist was Prince William of England. How could we have been so fooled by the Prince’s devilish charm?!
2011 – Harold Camping, an American Christian radio broadcaster, whose predictions failed in 1994 and 1995, jumped back into the game and declared May 21st to be the day of Rapture. Surprisingly, thousands of people sold their homes, depleted their bank accounts, quit their jobs, and gave up on life. After nothing happened, he re-set the date to October 21st. I guess nothing happened that day either, at least nothing that I can remember.
Dec 21, 2012 – This brings us to our most recent apocalyptic scare. Two months ago, the world was supposed to end, according to Terrence McKenna, a pretty big name in psuedo-science, and hundreds of philosophers, historians, and religious persons. Basically, this date was the end of a 5,125 year-old cycle that the Mayans came up with (it didn’t account for leap years, though, so I guess we were supposed to die a long time ago). The Mayans never specified that this date would determine the fate of mankind, but many assumed this was the case. Others argued that this was simply a positive and spiritual transformation; we were entering a new era of enlightenment. We are still alive, so that’s cool.
Feb 8, 2013 – Scientists are finally willing to put the discussion concerning the extinction of dinosaurs to rest. Radiometric dating of rock and other archeological and science terms I don’t understand, proves that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a huge meteorite that hit what is now Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. According to LiveScience, “The explosion, likely caused by an object about 6 miles (10 km) across, would have released as much energy as 100 trillion tons of TNT, more than a billion times more than the atom bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Yikes.
Feb 15, 2013 – Just recently, a meteorite slammed into Russia. Strangely enough, the meteorite was blasted into earth less than a day before Asteroid 2012 DA14 was to make its closest recorded pass to the earth. Scientists claim this is purely coincidental, but everyone is pretty spooked about this occurrence and some even claim the government is hiding information from us. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Russian political activist, blames America and argues that we were testing new weapons.
Will the world end? Eventually. Will it end in our lifetime? It’s possible, but super unlikely. Life on earth could be wiped out via asteroid, solar flare, supernova, gamma-ray burst, and the death of the sun. We could launch a third world war that demolishes a third of the planet with biological warfare and nuclear weapons. A new plague could spread from country to country and infect millions before a cure is found. The zombies could really be making their sluggish way from graves and into our apartments as we speak! Okay, so I’m not a scientist. I watch a lot of Walking Dead and thought Melancholia was pretty. All things are possible (except Zombies. I’m pretty sure that is just not physically or scientifically possible), but it’s important to realize there is little to nothing humans can do to stop the world from ending, eventually. So, relax and embrace the earth we have now by recycling and living every day like it’s your last. You might as well.
Featured image via Shutterstock