The ambivalent eschatologist



“What, just end?”


“Just like that?”

“The Mayans predicted it.” The man was all very matter of fact. He didn’t seem too concerned about having just handed you a set of major philosophical questions and an eschatological crisis along with your chai tea.

He grinned at you. There was a tick crawling in his beard. You’d been watching it the entire time he was telling you about The End of the World, and perhaps that’s why you felt as though you’d missed some major logical axis-points in his story.

“Like The End the end? The End with a capital E? Or are we talking about the beginning of the end? Or like today-is-the-start-of-the-rest-of-your-life the end? Or just like, boom, gone, the end?”

“It’s the Mayan calendar, sister”. He was sitting cross-legged, balancing a small tin of ‘just some herbs, sister’ on his knee as he rolled himself a fat smoke.

“But how would you know it, if it just ended? Like, would someone have to live to verify the end? Or would it just be like a split-second of collective dooms-day acknowledgement right before the end?”.

The man just shrugged, lit his joint, and told you that if humanity would only come to its senses, overcome its fascist governments, and convert to a hemp-based economy, then we wouldn’t have to ask these questions.

You nodded. Interesting perspective.

But the point was, you did–and you still do–have to ask these questions.

In the three years since that conversation, you’ve heard about the end of the world with increasing frequency and urgency.  Planets aligning. Economic crisis. Technological black holes. It all goes under. Zombies. Energetic reawakening.

The 21st December 2012 is highlighted in diaries across the world: Tomorrow, kids, we go to hell in a fast car.

Some other time some other man told you that the end of the world really means an end to spiritual ignorance. This man had a flashing smile, pepper-grey hair, and laugh-lines around his eyes. He was a healer, a disciple of Osho, and singer in a reggae band.

The End of the World is, he’d said, the point at which the universe switches over to a higher frequency, and that, that right there—he patted your arm to emphasise his point, and you wished you weren’t so up-tight about people you’ve just met touching your arm—“that’s why we’ve got to start meditating now, eat healthy, respect the earth, spread joy, be open to what the cosmos delivers”.

He was wearing a very bright shirt, and you were somewhat distracted by the combined brightness of his shirt and his and teeth and the way he seemed so at ease with the world, so damn calm.

You wouldn’t mind if the world was a calmer, more meditative, healthy-eating and respectful place, and so a part of you had wanted to believe him.

But that’s the problem: A part of you has wanted to believe every other person’s theory too.

Take, for instance, the evangelists (their shirts are crisp. Their hair is always side-parted. There cars always seem newly washed.   You’ve always wanted to look in an evangelists car; you bet there would be no icecream wrappers and empty bottles on the floor) . You always wished you could believe those evangelists who came knocking on your mother’s door to tell your family about the imminent apocalypse that Christ could save you from.

The first time they came, your mother had explained to them why she’s an atheist, and told them exactly where they could shove their religion. Then she’d invited them in for tea.

They came back regularly after that, each time bringing a new religious brochure or magazine that your mother, after she was done arguing religion, would read and then carefully place in the big manila folder in the book case.

“They’re nice people. They have interesting magazines… Even if I don’t believe them”, she’d say , shrugging.

One of those magazine’s had an image  depicting The End of the World. According to said image, the end of the world will be all fiery and red, with people running, and some people kneeling in light (looking safe and slightly smug) besides Jesus.  (“Armageddon”, you’d sounded out the word, let it roll across your tongue, wondered how such a bad thing—because surely, it was bad, the world ending and all?—could sound so poetic, until you considered that you find most bad things satisfying in this way, and that’s why you’ll be one of the people running on fire).

The image reminded you of the nightmares you’d had in grade 2, when you’d first found out that the sun would one day swallow the earth. Your fatalistic seven-year-old self had eventually reasoned that when the sun does go all Red Giant then it would be pretty fair game, seeing as it had sustained life for billions of years. The End of the World happens (And if it doesn’t, you’ll turn that into a bumper-sticker).

So the world will end, in some way or another, and we all know it. But listening to all these theories, and all these promises, you’ve never been able to work out how any one group could be excluded from the end of the earth, or  even be privy to its secrets. How could something as major as The End of the World come down to be a simple delineation between good/bad, believer/non-believer, worthy/unworthy  that could be explained on a brochure?

You’ve decided, for now at least, that the best option is to listen to the different perspectives, fill your glass with wine, and find a good vantage point from which to watch it all unfold.

Because really, you have enough troubles differentiating beginnings from endings without adding capital letters or inverted commas or theologically correct synonyms,  and besides, you’re still too distracted by the details of the world around you to think about its demise.

From where you sit, the only thing you can be sure of—that all of those you’ve spoken to will agree with—is that today ends when it becomes tomorrow.