(Liya Rechtman)– The apocalypse is by no means a new phenomenon as of 2012 and the media’s incorrect understanding of the cyclical Mayan calendar. People have been predicting that the world would end in their time since… before the Bible. Judeo-Christian history is riddled with surges of eschatological sentiment and from Old Testament prophecy through American millennialism to today’s Zombie Apocalypse. The picture in the feature image was done by the Russian artist Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov in 1887. It depicts the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who will, according to the New Testament, arrive on earth on judgment day.
You have to wonder, then, if the end of the world is really a fear, as it purports to be, or a desire. As selfish entities, obsessed as we are with our own mortality, we want everything to be over when WE are over. What could provide more closure for our own deaths than the end of the world? Moreover, in the same way that we need religion to create order, the End Days would have a last-chapter finality – all the loose ends of human existence would have a chance to be tied up neatly. We would know what we could ever know about the world around us and there would be an end to expansion. As humans, we long for a conclusion.
Joss Wheedon put this best (as usual because he’s a genius) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s high school graduation – season 3, episode 22. The mayor is asked to give a speech to the graduating seniors on the anniversary of 100 years of Sunnydale. In typical Buffy fashion, the mayor is actually planning to ascend into a giant snake demon during his speech. Before he does this, though, he reminds his audience that: “nothing will ever be the same. Nothing.” The moon eclipses the sun completely and the audience is submerged into darkness. We believe the mayor.
I watched this episode during the week that I was graduating high school and I remember that moment so clearly. It’s true: after you graduate from high school, nothing will be the same ever again in your life. For me, even though my mayor didn’t transform into a giant snake and eat my principle, graduating high school was terrifying. Like Buffy, forming an army out of her classmates and her vampire boyfriend’s vampire friends to defeat the horde of bad vampires assisting the demon mayor, I felt like I finally had to take charge and that was unnerving, to say the least. While we all crave to be in charge of our own fate, humanity has also spent so much time creating ideologies and institutions in which we don’t have to be. Instead, we subordinate our desires to a Greater Good.
Most importantly, though, in the last episode of season three, due to the heavy flaming arrow fire and the menace of the giant snake, the school blows up. This is crucial. Sunnydale High has lasted through three years of demons, vampires, and dark magic, but cannot resist the destruction of graduation day. Mr. Giles, Buffy’s mentor, calmly mumbles while surveying the wreckage that there is a “certain synchronicity in all this.”
Have you ever returned to your high school since you graduated? Don’t you kind of wish that it had magically disappeared? After all, how could an institution that was so formative for you keep existing, keep doing the same for other people after you’re gone?
We often deal with this by commenting that everything “looks smaller.” As if that small-ness could separate Us and Our Experience there from It, Now.
The destruction of the high school once Buffy and The Scooby Gang (the nickname for her group of vampire-fighting classmates) is microcosmically analogous to the way people have often thought about the world after their death. They would rather see it shattered and ruined than continued on without them in it. While the former would be difficult and painful the latter is almost unbearable.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been watching to much sci-fi and fantasy TV since the summer started, or maybe it’s that one of the attacks happened right outside my grandmother’s house in Miami, but the whole zombie apocalypse has really been freaking me out. Earlier this week, B. Pilgrim wrote:
In the end, I suppose a zombie apocalypse is just like any other crisis. It helps us realize that our society is balanced on a razor’s edge at all times—that our entire sense of safety is based on faith.
I would argue that a zombie apocalypse is like any other apocalypse. Remember the May 21, 2011apocalypse? What about Camping’s book The End of Time published in 1992 that promised that this life would all be over by 1994? Not to mention the smaller scares, like the killer bees, anthrax, and swine flu. Thus far we’ve managed to make it through all of them, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t rattled. We’re scared, less of having our face eaten off by a rabid bath salt addict, and more of our own Last Day.