It's the End of the World As We Know It (Or: My Ninth Anniversary is the Rapture)
Apocalyptic Phrophecies Abound. Should I Buy a Present For the Wife?
It’s The End of the World As We Know It… One of These Days (I Just Don’t Know Which One)
(Update: The end of the world must have come and gone without my knowing it. This is from February 2011)
I had to break the news to my wife today that I won’t be buying her an anniversary present this year, our ninth. I’m not cheap, mind you, I just figured, “What’s the point?” After all, very earnest men (and they were all men) had just assured me the world would be coming to an end that day. The men had been clustered around the viewing stand at intersection of King Street and North Fairfax Street in Old Town, Alexandria. They carried signs declaring “Judgment Day, May 21, 2011.” Another shared the good news: “Christ Returns, May 21, 2011, Judgment Day.”
Who knew the ninth was the Rapture Anniversary?
My wife was unimpressed. “The world doesn’t end until 2012,” she declared. “I saw that in a movie with John Cusak. You owe me some pottery. Or leather. Those are the ninth anniversary presidents. Oh, and we’re getting a babysitter and going out.”
My wife had a point: Lots of people seem pretty anxious to tell you the world is ending. They just can’t seem to agree on when, exactly, it’s curtains. So, I decided to do some investigating.
According to the handout I got in Old Town that’s distributed by some outfit called Family Radio in Oakland, California, the Bible tells us God sent the Great Flood that killed everyone except Noah and those on his Ark in 4990 B.C. By extrapolating from 2 Peter 3:8 and Genesis 7:10-11, the good folks at Family Radio conclude that God told Noah he would destroy the world exactly 7,000 years after the Flood. According to the 8-page pamphlet of tiny type I was handed in Old Town, the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. (the math is 4900 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000; you subtract one year because there is no year zero). They arrive at the precise date of May 21 by asserting that is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar. The Great Flood also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month in the year 4990 B.C.
Ok, then. That’s a little spooky. But am I really safe avoiding shopping for a new leather purse for the missus? After all, Hollywood’s depiction of the ancient Mayan calendar for the apocalypse did suggest the Big Event was at least a year later than the Christians were telling me.
The Mayans relied on a system of multiple calendars to foretell various cycles In particular, they used one called the Tzolk’in that had 260 days and the Haab, which had 365 days. They also used a longer calendar to track extended periods of time, known as the Long Count. In this Long Count, there is a “Great Cycle” tied to equinoxes that lasts 5,125 years. The end of the next Great Cycle coincides with Dec. 21, 2012, the winter solstice. Not only has a Hollywood movie been made about this prophecy, people have literally quit their jobs and lives to form survival communities in anticipation. They cite similar predictions by ancient Egyptians and Nostrodamus.
The silver lining if this is correct, I suppose, is that I won’t have to do any Christmas shopping next year. That’ll be an interesting conversation with my kids, who desperately want an XBox Kinect and an Apple IPad. On the other hand, not only am I on the hook for an anniversary present this year, I’ll need one to celebrate our 10th in May 2012. That means tin or aluminum, the traditional presents. Or, if I am feeling more modern, diamonds (which also happen to be my beloved’s birthstone, so you know how that’s going to end.)
Of course, end-of-the-world predictions are hardly limited to theories making predictions for 2011 and 2012. Baba Vanga, a Russian prophetess who supposedly predicted the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk in 2000 as well as the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, forsees the planet dying in 3010 after a collision with a comet. More plausibly, she said China would be a world power by 2018, the polar ice caps will melt in 2033, and Muslims would rule Europe in 2043. She also said people will become robots in 2111. Other prophecies foresee the world ending in 2016, 2034, 2047, and, my personal favorite: the ever-so-ominous “Soon.”
All of these dates of course, potentially fall in my lifetime, as I won’t hit the century mark until 2071. And there is certainly merit in the underlining message of these warnings to live piously until the Reckoning. Still, not one of the men insisting the world would end on May 21, 2011 would take me up on my offer to give them $1,000 today in exchange for a signed promisory note to repay me $10,000 on May 22.
Which suggests to me that when it comes to repenting,it's probably better to focus on remaining in the good graces of my wife.
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