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Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

SOME PEOPLE would like to die drunk and partying. If this is the Last Year of Earthly Things, I would like to die well-rested, caffeine-free and sober. Also, I have a lot of stuff to do over the next month and need time and energy. Back in January, I said I would use this last year to start graduate studies, record, and travel, and in spite of not posting on these topics, I’ve been working secret-like to make them happen.

I spent ten minutes trying to think of a caption that made this picture relevant

I spent ten minutes trying to think of a caption that made this picture relevant

So I’m bringing back something I did a while ago called Lent Except Saturday. Last time, it entailed no alcohol, red meat or sex except on Saturdays, for 40 days. The associated blog was basically a list of interesting ways I had failed each week. This time, it’s going to be no alcohol, caffeine or staying up late except on Saturday, for 30 days. I guess I got old.

Me

Me

The other difference is that I’m going to win this one. A modification to the alcohol rule: I am allowed a glass of wine every day, because it’s good for you. An addition: no Facebooking, except to check email, post blogs and do stuff for work. There. It’s done.

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The New Year of Earthly Things

I GOT THIS. I holed up over the last few nights and crunched all the numbers. The Mayans – they forgot to carry the one. The end of the world is NEXT year.

chain

WTF

I spent the (so-called) Last Day of Earthly Things reading Kurt Vonnegut on the beach in Waikiki, Hawaii. I went for a jog and had steak dinner with my family. Then I found a dive karaoke bar in Chinatown and waited. It was perfect. The paint was peeling off the walls (that old cliché) and everyone was overweight, the wrong side of 40, and drunk. I was singing Bill Withers when the clock struck midnight – just how I wanted to go out. The clock ticked over. And nothing happened. I had made my farewells. Burnt some bridges. Said goodbye to my cat. How was this possible?

Some people have been confused by this blog. They ask me: “Do you really think the world will end? Or is this in fact a parody?” No it is not a parody. There were solid scientific reasons for believing the world would end. For example, the Mayans were ancient, so had ancient wisdom, and they made a calendar that stopped at a particular time. Therefore apocalypse. Then there’s the Zodiac. And polar interstellar NASA quantum shift flibbitybizkit. “Is it, then,” some friends will ask, “some sort of existential experiment, in which you find inspiration in living AS IF the world is going to end?” Well. If that last one were true, THANK YOU FOR BREAKING DOWN THE FOURTH WALL. If it were, I wouldn’t tell you. And no. It was not true. I was totally, 100% serious. Obviously.

I thought my friends knew me.

"Well . . . This is going to be a depressing end to the story."

“Worst. Ending. Ever.”

When Joseph Smith’s scribe lost his translation of the Book of Lehi, he didn’t give up. He just made up some other, shorter version. I read an interesting story about an eschatological cult from the 1950s. It was led by a Chicago housewife named Dorothy Martin who claimed to channel messages from aliens announcing impending apocalypse. When the world did not in fact end, members became MORE committed to their beliefs, undergoing a period of enthusiastic proselytizing. Leon Festinger, the psychologist who introduced the idea of cognitive dissonance, and who had infiltrated the group, argued that their evangelism was a way to bolster their own shaken beliefs, thus reducing dissonance. They re-wrote their disappointment as a victory. I wonder if that’s also what happened with Christianity.

I have no idea what this . . . Voila. Apocalypse.

I have no idea what this . . . I mean voila. Apocalypse.

The difference here, of course, is that I have maths on my side. PROOF in the form of cold, unshakeable equations. I would show you the full calculations, but they’re way too complicated for you to understand. Just like Joseph Smith, though, all this has only made me more determined. Like Dorothy Martin, I feel reborn – renewed. We’ve been given a second chance. The angel of death has passed over our houses, as over the blood-painted doors of the Israelites in Egypt, and spared us. For one more year. I’m inventing a second holiday, to follow The Last Week of Earthly Things – which is where you thank everyone for the time you’ve shared together. (I might have called it Last Month of Earthly Things. Whatever, it’s week now). It’s the New Week (or so) of Earthly Things, from December 22-31. It’s where you sit about feeling grateful as Hell.

Have you thought about what this means? This second chance? The things that you can do now? This is important. Really important. Because the world IS going to end. One day.

December 21, 2013.

For me, this means that all that stuff I was talking about doing – Brazil, the Pyramids, the EP. The novel. It’s all possible.

Mae West said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Game on.

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WTF?

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I’D LIKE TO SAY that I’m going into the next life serenely but the truth is that I feel a range of raging emotions. It’s been a week of ups and downs, happy and sad thoughts, mad what ifs and also resolutions. One of the best moments was seeing my best friend again, of meeting her baby, the happiest kid on the planet. Another was surprising my Dad and my brother. Tomorrow I’ll see my mother and sister. (I figure that since the last day on the Mayan calendar was the 21st, the world will end tomorrow, somewhere around midnight – time enough for me to make it to Honolulu where my family is waiting). Man . . . there’s so much more I wish I’d done. I never got to motorcycle through Brazil or see the Pyramids. I would have liked to see Jerusalem and Petra. Most of all, I wish I’d helped people more and I wish I’d written that novel. I think I might even have liked to have a kid one day. I would have told him three things (I don’t know why I’m assuming it would have been a boy): take gambles; never call a woman fat; always wear sunscreen at the beach. It is never a good idea not to wear sunscreen. (God damn it). You know what though? As we march toward the end, I’m really glad I did this – live as if the world were ending. (Which, of course, it is. I should say, live knowing that the world is ending). I told people how much I care about them, saw everything in a new way, and came home.

It was the best thing I ever did.

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11WE AUSTRALIANS DON’T FUCK AROUND. In a hard and rugged country populated with Tasmanian tigers, carnivorous kangaroos and drop bears, we can’t afford to. That’s why Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech about the end times below is no surprise to me. Australians call a spade a spade, a zombie a zombie, and the end the end.

If you look at the comment section on YouTube, some doubters are foolish enough to see this as an “obvious joke” – a parody. The same kind of idiots have said the same about my blog. Well. We’ll see who the zombie drop bears eat first.

I stand with you, Julia!

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THAT’S WHAT FULCRUM, the University of Ottawa’s student newspaper, asked students. The responses: sex, making out, sex, bacon, and getting wasted. This ties in to a New Zealand study from the University of Caterbury published a few months ago which concluded that sex and alcohol make people happiest, moreso than caring for children and religion. In the study, researchers asked participants to rate their activities throughout the day in terms of pleasure, meaning and engagement. Sex won. Then getting smashed. (I would love to see the text messages for this. “scientists, AlCOhl so ammazig!!”). After that, volunteering. So according to scientists, what we should be doing is volunteering for drunk sex.

I’m disappointed that “bacon” wasn’t a separate category in this study. I feel like it would have given volunteering a run for its money.

Women-sex

“Let’s get wasted and have sex before we dig wells at the orphanage.”

Sex, by the way, ranked highest on all three orientations – pleasure, meaning and engagement. An author at YourTango.com, a blog about “your best love life”, writes: “I find it a little troubling that sex also ranks number one in terms of meaning and engagement. That must be some mind-blowing sex they’re having over in New Zealand.”

Lady? You are doing it wrong.

One question I have is this: who were the participants? Were they, for example, students at the University of Caterbury? Students in their 20s, especially those juggling child-rearing and education, might give very different answers to parents in their 30s, which might be different again to the responses of retirees in their 60s, etc.

Happiness levels maxed out

Happiness levels maxed out

A part of me just wants to accept the study at face value, however, because I like that the researchers and those who did the eschatological thought experiment (i.e. asked themselves “What would I do if I knew I the world was going to end?”) reached the same conclusion. It affirms the value of the eschatological thought experiment, which affirms the project of this blog: to live as if the world were going to end (which, of course, it will, December 21st). It brings out the value in eschatological thought (leaving aside the dangers for a moment): which is that eschatology forces us to face our own mortality and therefore our most sacred values, stripping away the rest. It reminds us of what’s important.

Sex. Drunk sex.

And volunteering.

Here’s the full list:

Top-ranked:Behaviour

Pleasure

Meaning

Engagement

Happiness

Sex/ making love

1st

1st

1st

1st

Drinking alcohol/ partying

2nd

10th

5th

2nd

Care-giving/ volunteering

9th

3rd

6th

3rd

Meditating/ religious activities

8th

2nd

7th

4th

Childcare/ playing with children

10th

4th

11th

5th

Listening to music/ podcast

3rd

17th

13th

6th

Socialising/ talking/ chatting

5th

11th

10th

7th

Hobbies/ arts/ crafts

4th

5th

4th

8th

Shopping/ errands

15th

16th

16th

9th

Gaming/ video-games

6th

24th

9th

10th

Lower-ranked
Washing/ dressing/ grooming

22nd

29th

30th

21st

Internet/  on computer

20th

28th

21st

22nd

Commuting/ travelling

27th

23rd

29th

23rd

Paid work

26th

15th

17th

24th

Lectures/ class/ lab

23rd

8th

15th

25th

Texting/ emailing

21st

18th

18th

26th

Studying/ working on education

28th

7th

14th

27th

Housework/ chores/ DIY

29th

27th

27th

28th

Facebook

24th

30th

28th

29th

Sick/ healthcare

30th

25th

25th

30th

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War Story

.

I REMEMBER THE DAY. It was Z Day. When the first news broadcast came, there were already screams outside in the front yard, and I tore open my Z.E.R.O. Zombie Kit and and loaded my Belt Fed Zombie Attack AR15 with Z Max Bullets. Thank Christ I was prepared.

The first shambler to fall in my yard, shot through the chest, was Mrs. Peterson, the widow from across the road. Her husband had died of lung cancer a year before. At the funeral she had put on a brave face but her body was thin and frail now and her arm snapped beneath her as she fell. Next were the Gardeners, our neighbours. There was Mr. Gardener, and Mrs. Gardener, and little Sam, and his even smaller sister Kitty. She fell foaming at the mouth.

The neighbourhood was in chaos, but I pushed my wife Debbie and boy William into my Hyundai Elantra Coupe Zombie Zombie Survival Machine and used the spiked cow catcher to bulldoze shamblers down, clearing a path to the highway. I tried not to look at the faces for fear of recognising them. I had a goal: Vivos, where the space I had reserved in their community underground shelter waited. They had laughed, the Gardeners, at least Ned Gardener had, when I bought it. It had cost me a year’s wages. The Gardeners weren’t laughing now.

It was noon when I ran out of gas on the highway. I had been so intent on the road before me, trying not to see the carnage on either side, that I had forgotten to check the gas meter. It would be the worst mistake I ever made. I could see the gas station a hundred feet down the road, so close. Drawing my Survivor’s Shovel, I told Debbie and William to stay put, stepped out of the car and broke into a trot. The first shambler was a middle-aged woman with ginger hair and half her face missing. The blade of my Survivor’s Shovel halved what was left. The next was a solid fellow in farmer’s clothes, saliva bubbling from his lips; he fell too. And the next. Three more down and the gas station was deserted. It seemed so empty and peaceful after the hell of the suburbs that I let my guard down.

I was filling a gerrycan when I felt the bite. Teeth sinking into my left arm. The infection in my arm now. In my blood. I screamed in horror and frustration and rage and kept chopping at the thing long after it had stopped moving. It was a little boy. Not much older than William. It had bitten me. Oh God, no. William was waiting for his father in the backseat of the car, scared to death. Debbie, my wife. I had failed them

There was one thing I could do. My heart had sunk into my stomach, but I moved automatically, my jaw clenched in pain and resolve. I tore up the shambler’s shirt – better think of it as a shambler than a little boy – and I bandaged my arm. When I got back to the car I told them that I had cut myself on the Survivor’s Shovel. I think that maybe they knew. They never said a word.

I drove as far as I could toward Vivos. I tried to stop it, my teeth clenched, my knuckles white around the wheel. The fever had me. Sweat beaded my brow. My hands trembling. The hunger inside. The flesh of my wife’s clutching hand turning from the hand that I knew and loved into something else – the skin inviting and translucent, the blood pulsing underneath, the meat of the palm . . . God, I prayed. Let me make it one more mile.

_______________________________________________________________

At least, that’s how I imagine it was for my father. I watched from the backseat as he hit the brakes – hunched over the wheel – shuddered. I watched as he began to eat my mother. As if from very far away, I watched as I leapt out of the car, grabbing the Survivor’s Shovel, and he chased me into the woods.

I don’t know how I did what I did in there. When I came out I was pale and shaking, spattered in blood.

The body of my mother was still, as if dead. There was a hole in her throat but the blood had stopped pouring out. I stayed with her, talking to her, begging her to wake up and be alright, until her eyes opened and her hand jerked up to grab me and I slammed the door shut in terror and ran to an empty car back up the road. The keys were still in the ignition. I drove the rest of the mile to Vivos believing that I would come back for her with help. I think I really thought it was true.

I wonder what happened to her.

The battle against the aliens who had released this plague upon us raged on the flat-screened TVs inside Vivos. In the broadcasts, their streamlined, silver craft shimmered across the skies. We hunkered down in our luxury bunker, eating caviar and lobster that tasted like ashes in our mouths. Many died in the war. Still more had their memories wiped and became soldier-slaves of the enemy. In the end there were more of them than there were of us.

It was five years after Z Day that the enemy found Vivos. The news broadcasts had stopped long before.

After our last stand, when the Allied Human Forces won the war, some of those soldier-slaves were freed. Others could not be saved, their minds trapped, and we hunted them down across the torn countryside like rabid dogs.

I was one of the pilots who helped win the war, flying experimental crafts that had been reverse-engineered from alien technology decades earlier.

On this day, the anniversary of Z Day, I remember the soldiers who laid down their lives so that we could live.

I remember the slaves who could not be saved and who were put down, lost in their own minds.

And I remember my father and how he saved my life.

Thank you.

– William

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