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Apocalypse Theater

And so it begins...

Today, being 12.12.12, is helping to fan the flames of apocalyptic panic here in Asia.  The Chinese are big on numerical symbolism.  One example is the number 4.  The Mandarin words for 4 and 'death' are very similar.  Therefore, they are very superstitious of the number 4.  They won't have floor numbers or room numbers or house numbers with 4 in them.  There's a whole industry selling phone numbers without the number 4.  License tags on the car can not contain the number 4.  I guess it never occurred to them to change one or the other word, or use a euphamism or something to avoid using the word for 'death'.

At any rate, since today is 12.12.12, Asians are attaching all this significance to the date.  Combined with the Mayan calendar thing, the Twits and BBMs and text messages are flying hither and yon predicting all sorts of nastiness. 

One of the most popular dire scenarios is that today marks the ten-day countdown to 12.21.12, with 10 somehow being significant.  Then, on 12.21, there will be three days of darkness followed by all sorts of horrible mean nasties.  Then 2013 will be the Apocalypse.

Give me a break...

The first big worldwide scare I can remember, other than hiding under my desk from nuclear bombs every Friday at noon, was 1982, or thereabouts.  Back then, it was all the planets lining up in the same quadrant of the Sun.  That signaled the end of the world as we know it.  All hell was going to break loose.  The Sun would spit fire, the Earth would crack in two, and the Universe would be sucked into a giant black hole.  That was 30 years ago and things are still spinning along quite nicely, Universe-wise.

Then it was Y2K.  That was fun, wasn't it?  What was it?  Five years of terror, horror and IT guys swimming in money?  Camping gear sold like pancakes at a church picnic.  People horded anything that wasn't nailed down, and built safe-houses over the things that were nailed down.  Bunkers...military rations...butane gas...  And what happened?  New Year's day dawned.  It was a beautiful day.  Mild weather, internet still humming along, unexploded computers.  In other words, not a damn thing.

Then, it was 9/11.  The world was under attack.  The US created gestapo organizations and started groping people's most private body parts for fear of terrorists.  Wars began.  Kids were back to diving under desks.  The world could stop spinning at any moment.  What happened?  The 'good guys' became the terrorists, and the terrorists were shown to never have existed.

So now it's 12.21.12.  Guess what?  We'll all be going about our business on 12.22, with the possible exception of regret that we spent all that time and money buying up books about the end of the world as we know it.  Won't we feel silly?

Apparently not.  Seems that no matter how stupid all this end of the world as we know it BS turns out to be, we can't get enough of it.  Next year, there'll be some new catastrophe waiting just around the corner to gobble us all up and spit out the bones.  I won't buy that one either.

The only thing the end of the Mayan calendar symbolizes is the half-way point in the 26,000-year precessional cycle.  It is remarkable that a 'primitive' culture had enough information to create a calendar capable of measuring a cycle that most brain-dead humans today don't even know exists, but it's certainly not the end of the world as we know it.

In fact, EVERY SINGLE DAY is the end of the world as we know it.  The only immutable constant in the Universe is change, which means that tomorrow will not be the same as today, no matter how much it may appear that way.  Thus, when you go to bed, that is the end of the world as you knew it up to that point.  Tomorrow, it will all change.  Somewhere in the Universe, a star will blow up or swallow one of its planets.  The wind will move leaves and paper around.  People will have changed position from when they went to sleep and when they woke up.  The Earth will be several thousand miles away from the point it was when you woke up yesterday.  The Moon and planets will have shifted several degrees against the background stars.  The puddle of water you stepped in last night will have dried up.

That world you knew yesterday is gone...ended...never to return.  Last night was the end of the world as you knew it.  So?

You wake up and start over.  The things that didn't change go unnoticed, and the things that did force you to relearn your environment, but the fact is you are still alive and the world is still spinning.

You want real end-of-the-world stuff?  How about the Black Plague?  The African famine?  The Asian Contagion?  The Banda Aceh earthquake/tsunami?  Hurricane Katrina?  If you didn't have to go through them, then your world seemed pretty cozy and secure.  If you did go through them, I'll bet it was the end of the world as you knew it.

The fact of the matter is, if we lived every day knowing it was the end of the world as we know it, this might be a much nicer world.  We might be a little kinder, a little more generous, a little more forgiving.  We might find time to smell the roses or bake a homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie.  We might take the time to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us.  We might step out of the rat race a little more often and watch the river flow.  If that's the case, then guess what?

It's the end of the world as we know it...right now, all day, just like yesterday and same as tomorrow.

Quick!  Hug your kids, kiss your wife and feed the dog!  Hurry!  Go watch the sun set, count the stars and pick a daisy or two!  Rush!  Call a friend you haven't talked to in a while, bake a double chocolate cake and turn off the damn TeeVee!

It's the end of the world as we know it!

Does that mean the Sun will wink out, the stars will fall and the Moon will fly off its course?  No.  But the world in five minutes will not be the one you woke up to this morning.  That world ended and we've just started anew.

Why is it that no one ever stops to remember that 'apocalypse' means 'to reveal' or 'revelation'?  It means that the old world has died and that the new one is revealing itself to us...all day, every day, 365 days a year, millennium after millennium.  It means that the world we knew is gone and we now have the chance to make the new one after day, month on month, eon beyond eon.

Why is everyone is such a hellfire rush to destroy things when what we have is 86,000 chances to recreate the world every single day of our lives.  The world ends 86,000 times a day and a new one is born 86,000 times before tomorrow comes.  We're looking at this whole end-of-the-world stuff all wrong!

There will always be earthquakes and comets and omens in the numbers.  None of them mean a good God damn.  The world will continue to spin and orbit, the Sun will rise and set, and the breeze will still be as sweet.  The difference is whether we humans will be here to enjoy it, and at the rate we're going, that may not last much longer.

But it won't be the end of the world.  Just us.  And we ain't the world, just part of it.

Hey you!  Yeah, you...sitting there reading this.  The world just ended!  What are you going to do about it?  Look!  It just ended again...and again...and again.  You're still sitting there!  Don't you have a new world to build?