Saturday, January 05, 2008

Enjoying the End Times

This post incorporates research funded by a generous grant by the Eschatological Sciences Research Foundation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Church of the Orange Sky.

It's occurred to me recently that my undue focus on certain branches of Christianity has led me to ignore the wide variety of apocalyptic notions floating around elsewhere. I'm sad to say this didn't occur before now - indeed, I ought to have realized it a couple of years ago, before I was kicked off of the Rapture Ready bulletin boards by zealous administrators, at which time I'd been repeatedly lectured by the pompous pious on the supposedly apocalyptic views of Iran's president, Ahmedinejad. (At the time, this little corner of the evangelical right seemed convinced that Ahmadinejad believed it was his divinely appointed role to blow up Israel and thus provoke a world-destroying nuclear armageddon.)

A couple of months ago, I had an even more interesting conversation on the train in Ottawa with a fellow (unfortunately, I've forgotten his name) who'd done some very interesting research into the end of the world from a quite different perspective. He began with the rather often-repeated (even, hilariously, among futurist evangelicals, who ought to know better if only because of their delusions about Satanic inspiration) claim that the world is going to end in 2012, something the Mayans knew but none of the rest of us have been able to figure out in the intervening five hundred years. Wikipedia has a page on the Long Count calendar and, unsurprisingly, the 2012 story is largely a myth: this date marks the end of an era in world history, not the world as such. That doesn't stop people, though; 2012 figures significantly in everything from the New Age theories of José Arguelles to the alien conspiracies of The X-Files.

What was more interesting about this conversation, though, was not the date but the details. Among other things, the Earth's magnetic poles are going to begin fluctuating - after learning I was a university student, he nicely asked whether I knew much about whether such fluctuations had occurred before in world history - and there are going to be enormous floods, covering the vast majority of the world's surface with seawater. Fortunately, he and apparently some others had been able to figure out which mountain ranges would escape the flood relatively unharmed, and he was making a map of suitable escape locations. Unfortunately I can't remember which ones were favoured (after all, you don't want just high dry land but high dry land you can survive on), except that one of the optimum mountain ranges was located in sub-Saharan Africa. It was an interesting conversation and unfortunately the train ride only lasted ten minutes or so.

All of this pales, however, next to the latest eschatological pronouncement from the always-entertaining Church of the Subgenius, which has recently proclaimed via its High Weirdness Project, that the end of the world is coming a little early, in July of this year. Consequently, the Church is going to suspend new memberships beginning late on July 4 (the day before the end of the world - Armageddon's Eve, perhaps?) and is inviting all of its members to a nudist retreat at the Brushwood Folklore Center to celebrate their last days on Earth. (The end of the world, conveniently, coincides with the church's annual X-Day celebrations, which customarily invite "disbelievers, blasphemers, pranksters, rebels, hackers, pornographers, geeks, and outcasts" to explore the Church's concepts of enlightened "sexual freedom."

For those who are worried that this is starting to sound like a suicide cult, don't worry - the Church of the Subgenius, like all Discordians, tends to hover somewhere between peacefully psychotic and ironically humorous, sort of a long-winded cousin to Pastafarianism and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Actually, I kind of like the Discordian movement. Unimginatively named Christian deities like "God," and authority figures like "the Pope," seem downright dull when placed next to Bob Dobbs the divine equipment salesman, who escaped death Rasputin-style before finally being gunned down in San Francisco in 1984, after which he has subsequently returned from the dead on multiple occasions; or especially Malaclypse the Younger, Omnibenevolent Polyfather of Virginity in Gold, who once exchanged telegrams with God while vacationing in the Celestial Hotel.