The Final Days? (2019)

Final Days

There is growing speculation that we are living in The Final Days and our society is slowly collapsing under the weight of our own decadent excesses.  I’m not so sure that our world is doomed, but … look around.  Every day there’s evidence that many of us are making some seriously sorry choices.  The problem is our benevolent society has created a cornucopia of attitudes that we all believe we’re entitled to – even though they have no intrinsic value.  In other words, we’re wasting our time and energy on crap that doesn’t matter and believe nothing should stand in the way of our self-indulgence.  Here are just four examples from the last couple of weeks – you decide!

Grumpy Cat is dead.  For those of you who never knew he was alive, Grumpy Cat was a cat who – uh — looked grumpy.  Apparently, this is enough to merit celebrity status in the 21st century, and a million dollar income, as well.  Go figure!  Anyway, officially, he died of a urinary tract infection, but I wonder if he’d just gotten curious about who was spending all the money he was generating.

A woman in Saskatoon, Canada decided she wanted to preserve her husband’s tattoos after he died.  (Icky – but to each his own!)  The thing that blows me away, though, is there’s a company in Cleveland, Ohio called Save My Ink Forever that actually does this sort of thing.  They will take your dead loved one, surgically remove the tattoo (think about that!) and frame it.  I get creeped out when somebody has an urn on the mantel.  I can’t imagine looking over and seeing a hunk of skin with Aunt Meghan’s tramp stamp, hanging on the wall.

Some guy visiting Hawaii jumped over the guardrail and fell into a volcano.  One wonders why?  It’s not like he didn’t see the damn thing.  And I’m sure there were signs, like “Danger! Hot, boiling lava ahead!”  Plus, there was a guardrail.  Maybe he just thought the physical laws of the universe didn’t apply to him.  Regardless, after a daring rescue, the man was treated for serious burns but walked away.  Personally, I think somebody should slap the rescue crew for keeping this dumbass in the gene pool.

But my favourite is:

Game of Thrones is over, and more than a million people are pissed off about it.  Not that the show’s over, but that it didn’t end the way they wanted it to.  In fact, they’ve signed a petition demanding – DEMANDING! – that the entire last season not only be rewritten but re-filmed.  That’s not how it works, people.  You’re the audience; you don’t get a vote.  That’s like going to the Louvre and demanding somebody repaint the Mona Lisa because you don’t understand the smile.  I know our society is trying its best to outlaw disappointment, but this has taken entitlement to a whole new level.

The End of the World…again: Part II

As we wait for May 21st, 2011 and the End of the World we’ve got some time to look at another possible Apocalypse.

Personally, I’ve got nothing against Mayans.  I’ve only met a few, and since I was always a tourist and their job was to make me happy, I’m in no real position to judge.  However, I would think that, like every other human group, they’ve got their fair share of good people, regular folks and jerks.  I say all this because I’m about to treat them badly; I don’t want anyone to think it’s anything more than journalist license.

The Mayans are an ancient smarty-pants civilization, discovered in the late 70s, when low airfares, sandy beaches and new hotels combined to bring loads of tourists to a place called Cancun.  Before that, the Mayans weren’t really known beyond a tight knit circle of anthropologists, archaeologists and nerdy grad students.  Cancun and environs, popularly called the Mayan Riviera, soon became a must have all-you-can-drink young people’s destination.  When the spring break college kids sobered up, they went out on daytrips to see the Mayan ruins at Coba, Tulum and Chichen Itza.  Incredible examples of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican culture, they blew the young folks away – especially since their previous contact with native America consisted of the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians.  They discovered all manner of cool things about the Mayans — stuff like, their written language, sophisticated social structure, detailed astronomical observations and cruel treatment at the hand of the conquering Spanish.  The fact that their culture included human sacrifice — lots of it — and had already collapsed under its own weight, long before the Spanish ever got there, was kinda glossed over by the tour guides.  Anyway, the sophomores among us took this knowledge home and wildly misinterpreted most of it, while congratulating themselves on their escape from the confines of their parent’s Eurocentric view of the world.

The most easily accessible tidbit of tourism was the Mayan Calendar.  For a while, it was the souvenir du jour and adorned the walls of most dormitories and studio apartments north of the Rio Grande – for years — sometimes upside down.  It was — and still is — a talking point, even though, without the name, most people haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re looking at.  However, it remains tangible evidence that the tour guides were right: the Mayans were way cooler than the Greeks and Romans (who had no idea what day of the week it was) and that, in turn, justifies a healthy disrespect for one’s own cultural roots.

In actual fact, the Mayan calendar is a complicated, extremely accurate piece of equipment.  I defy anyone without knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, Mayan history and conceptual logic to figure it out.  Besides, that plaster of Paris reproduction sitting in my basement is only one part of the intricate system the Mayans used.  You can’t just look at it — like you can the Playboy calendar — find Tuesday and figure out which day is garbage day.  Why?  First of all, the Mayans took time seriously.  It wasn’t used for trivial things like when’s the long weekend?  Secondly, it’s based on the numbers 13 and 20 which were sacred to the Mayans (even though they have no relevance to measurable time.)  Thirdly, the solar year was a minor unit in Mayan time, not the be-all-end-all we believe it is.  Finally, and most importantly, the Mayans thought of time as circular not linear – that’s why the thing’s in a circle.  Give an ancient Mayan a timeline, our general graphic depiction of time, and he’d say “What the hell’s this?”

So what has all this got to do with the end of the world?  Lots!  Unlike western calendars which are infinity at both ends (an extremely complex concept, by the way) the Mayan calendar has a definite beginning (August 11, 3114 BCE) and a definite end — December 21, 2012.  And since we all know Mayans are Third World cool, with secret mystical knowledge of the universe, they must know something we don’t – like hey, folks, we ran out of time, so it must be the end of the world.  Thus, the Mayans — that uber-cool little civilization who couldn’t figure out why cutting virginal throats didn’t make it rain — are now the arbiters of human survival!  This is an absolutely boon to soothsayers, charlatans and rogues who now have an event to hang their shysterism on.  They no longer have to rely on sketchy Biblical prophecies, Uri Geller or Nostradamus.  They can hitch their books, magazines, blogs and Discovery Channel documentaries to an actual thing – the Mayan Calendar.  Plus, they have a prequalified customer base from all the misconstrued Mayan crap that has been floating around for thirty years or so.  It’s a license to fleece money.

However, before you give away the farm and spend the next year and a half in abject lechery and debauchery, waiting for the end, let me fill you in on one single, overwhelming fact that nobody seems to be mentioning.  You and I, and everybody else who’s seen Jurassic Park, know damn well that time did not begin on August 11th, 3114 BCE.  In fact, we have it on good authority that Lucy (Australopithcus) and her pals were walking (upright) across Ethiopia over 3 million years before that.  Obviously, something’s wrong here.  It’s like the biblical scholar James Ussher who’s calculations pinpointed the time of Creation as Sunday, October 23rd, 4004 BC – not likely.  If those super-smart Mayans were 100% wrong on one end of their calendar, what are the chances they got things right on the other end?  Again, not likely!

I’m no anthropologist, but I don’t think the Mayans were any smarter than the rest of us.  In fact, I think, given the circular nature of Mayan time, the end of their calendar doesn’t mean the end of time; it’ just a practical way to start over.  All the rest of this current hooplah is just New Age nonsense at its finest.  And I also have the feeling the present day Mayans are laughing themselves stupid at all the fuss their ancestors caused.