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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Considering the End of the World

by Bradly Baird (bio)

I awoke on the morning of December 21, 2012 and was somewhat disappointed to discover that the world had, in fact, not ended. I kind of hoped that the world-ending delusion purveyed by the conspiracy theorists, pop culture gossips, and doomsday believers about the Mayans and their calendar might be true; and that the time-space continuum might come to a crashing end that morning (mainly so I wouldn't have to pay my mortgage, go to work, or clean the rain gutters anymore). But, alas, no such luck. I went to work and another boring day of adulthood ensued.

As I sat at my desk that day, I thought about the different ways that creative artists, mystics, and prophets have presented the end of the world and wanted to share a couple of my favorites, plus an apocalyptic fantasy of my own.

1) From C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle:

Immediately the sky became full of shooting stars ... these were dozens, and then scores, and then hundreds, till it was like silver rain; and it went on and on. And when it had gone on for some while, there was another dark shape against the sky...It was in a different place, right overhead, up in the very roof of the sky...there were no stars there: just blackness...and then the starless patch began to grow, further and further out from the centre of the sky. And presently a quarter of the whole sky was black, and then a half...the black part of the sky was the part in which there were no stars left. All the stars were falling...and all this was under a sky that would be starless forever.

2) From Douglas Adams' Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

"This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council," the voice continued. "As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you."

"And what's happened to the Earth?"
"Ah. It's been demolished."
"Has it," said Arthur levelly.
"Yes. It just boiled away into space."

3) Apocalyptic descriptions from scripture:

"And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree." "Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?"

4) The best place to witness the end, from Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering. It is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe ... In it, guests take their places at table and eat sumptuous meals while watching the whole of creation explode around them.

5) From my own fantasy about the end (or, what I would do if I were in charge of the universe):

The world will end on a beautiful spring morning. Mankind will be going about its usual business and will be blissfully unaware of what is to come. Suddenly, the sky will darken, almost as if it is midnight and great blue beams of brilliant energy descend from space, wiping all humanity and man-made things from the face of the planet, until the whole planet is empty of life.

Afterwards, two giant angels - the size of skyscrapers - descend from the heavens. Each one has a massive scythe in his hands and slices great fissures into the earth's surface, with the sides of the fissure pushing upward like peeling skin. After making the fissure, the angel begins to peel away great chunks of the earth's surface revealing a new surface beneath it, which glimmers with a firey red and gold brilliance, almost like molten lava.

After a great chunk of the old earth's skin is peeled away, the giant angel casts it away into space and continues to peel away great chunks of the old skin until the entire new surface of the earth has been revealed in this shimmering new form. Then, hundred of smaller angels begin to bring new buildings down from space to the surface and begin to form new cities; while others reshape the spectacular surface of the new earth into new features and forms. Following all of this, a new race of super human beings begins to appear and re-populate the earth.

6) Finally, an extra-literary description, from Gian Carlo Menotti's Apocalisse:

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