Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Apocalypse now-ish

(Published in Business Standard on December 15, 2012)

Does the name Nibiru strike fear into your heart? It should. It may sound like some yakuza who plans to stuff your Christmas stocking with your own fingers and toes, but it’s much, much worse. It’s the name of the planet, also called ‘Planet X’ or ‘Eris’, that is about to collide with Earth this December, thus fulfilling the Mayans’ prediction that the world will end in 2012.

Assuming a tiny margin of error around the predicted doomsday date of December 21, we have two weeks, at most, before everything goes to shit. When you’re staring at the end of your life, the little things fall away and one goes back to the serious questions. Whence did I come? Whither am I going? How come nobody says ‘whence’ and ‘whither’ anymore?

Suddenly, prioritisation seems urgent. Yes, we should have been thinking about it all year—every year since the Mayans, in fact—but you know how it is, there’s so much to do, and life takes over, and there are online Scrabble obligations because you can’t make opponents in New Zealand wait more than time zones already do. Elimination is one way to go. There’s no point doing the tax return after all, and why bother waxing? If I strip away the non-essentials and stick to what makes me happy, it looks as if I’m going to live out my radically shortened days feeding exclusively on burgers and Nutella between tango tandas, preferably while watching brain-softening television serials.

But you can only prioritise when you’re not in the middle of a psychic meltdown. Many people are spending all their time being very nervous. Russia, specifically, seems to have a national talent for it. A New York Times story says female prison inmates in one village suffered mass psychosis that could only be dispelled by a priest; in another place, residents came screeching out of their homes to…wait for it… build a Mayan archway out of ice. In more than one town, residents bought up all available matches, kerosene, sugar and candles—which is why another chap “has sold several thousand gag emergency kits, a cleverly packaged $29 parcel including sprats, vodka, buckwheat, matches, candles, a string and a piece of soap.” (Just because the world is ending doesn’t mean you won’t need string.) Of course, Russians are raised on stories of Baba Yaga, the evil hag who lives in a hut built on a big nasty chicken’s claw, so you can’t blame them for being a bit jumpy, and very keen on vodka. But jumpiness seems normal for anyone who really believes that we’re all going to go ‘poof’ in an apocalyptic halo of soapsuds.

It’s not like mankind has never before panicked over batty stuff. Remember the famous HG Wells War of the Worlds broadcast on the radio in 1938 that made half of North America flee their homes because they thought aliens were invading Earth for real?

But sheesh. Come on, world! Stop with the crazy. Yes, it’s crazy to think the world is going to end. It’s so crazy that even a psychic from Santa Cruz says it’s crazy. What’s actually going to happen, she told the Contra Costa Times, is that there’s going to be a planetary line-up as bad as a traffic jam, which means that Sagittarius and Capricorn can expect some awesome breakthroughs.

Thank god someone’s being rational.

No, I’m not terrified that the world will end this year. What really scares me is that, come Jan 1 2013, I’ll be twenty kilos heavier, battling an incipient heart condition, exceedingly late on all my work commitments, and hiding from the tax department.

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