The 22nd of December is a Saturday this year, so I hope any of you who survive the cataclysm of 21/12/2012 will drop by for breakfast. There will definitely be marmalade. Whether there is toast will depend upon the availability of electricity, for which I cannot vouch in a civilization that has just run out of wiggle room.
Our love of terminal events, the way we embrace Armageddon with such astonishing alacrity and keenness, may have something to do with our inability to come to terms with three things. The first is the inevitability, and also the probably unpleasant circumstances, of our own personal and private death. This is a moment we would thus prefer to share with others in some great and giddy public downfall, preferably produced by Roland Emmerich. It would be more fun, visually stunning and we might even get to meet Will Smith. The second is the downright messiness and general unpredictability of so much that seems essential to human development: love, weather, politics, bus schedules and the stuff we keep in drawers. We are all vaguely aware that time, the universe and the greater agents of civilization such as war, famine, cockroaches, climate change, viruses and very large numbers are not much concerned about our fleshly destiny. But we do so want them to be. We want to be given meaning, heaps of it. We would gain in stature and not have to wear heels to impress the girls.
The third thing is that we rather resent the way that the really key lessons of human history do not so much unfold
before our gaze in the grand sense, but tend to muddle and fumble their passage into our existence, shuffle across the dimly lit stage and then mutter their way off into the wings again before we’ve had time to notice that there was something happening here, damn it, from which we had to learn! We yearn for teacher to come over, briskly tap us on the shoulder and say: “Now lad, be so kind as to step up and explain Lussac’s law to the class. Enlighten us, if you will”, because that just happens to be something we’ve swotted for. We yearn for lessons we can understand the first time around, without needing our noses rubbed in it several times. Mass extinction by meteorite would fit that
For myself I’m not such a fan of predictability. Predictable people bore me, predictable films and music, too. And yet I’ve had my share of stunning successes. I predicted that giggly and adorable Gillian Compton would leave me within a month and she did. I predicted that David Cameron would have to form the first coalition government in decades and he did. I predicted the fall of the Berlin wall already back in 1986 and I predicted the Islamic revolution in Iran some years before it happened, although the CIA completely lost the plot there. This is all true, just ask my friends. And yet, these were not mystically Mayan, numerological cataclysms. My processes were humdrum and rational. The first was obvious: all women leave me sooner rather than later, why not this one? The second was clear, the Lib Dems had moved enough into the mainstream to be a palatable ally, the Conservatives had moved far enough into Blair County to need some new friends who didn’t look like the last lot. In the third case, the Russians had run out of hard cash in the early seventies. By the mid 80’s all their credit sources had dried up on them and even their own satellites and proxies were catching a nasty fiscal cold ... big change was inevitable, I just didn’t expect it to take so long. The last case was easier to ascribe to our family tradition of oriental studies and a thus quite naturally Droodian respect for the very real menace emanating towards a weak monarch with plebeian credentials from a charismatic exiled imam. You see? No magic, no smoke, no mirrors and definitely no tarot cards or tea leaves are necessary to stay ahead of the predictor curve. Certainly, no Mayans need apply.
Although, to be honest, I’ve got nothing against the end of the world per se
, it may even turn out to be a jolly good thing. There will be bills I won’t have to pay (I’ll put off paying anything at all at least until Monday the 24th), awkward letters to the Town Council that I won’t have to write, a couple of parties I won’t have to go to. And after
the one I would not have avoided, Mrs Harker – since Mr Chaudari’s DDG younger sister Jasmine, who is about as Sikh as Doctor Hyde and works at our tiny local post office will certainly not be coming home with me in that condition
– would not have to peel my highly reputable, if champagne-soaked, suit from my highly disreputable corpse on New Year’s morning.
On the wider scale, the EU would manage its last minutes without monetary or institutional reform. The world would go into its grave without ever knowing whether Alastair Cook could become a better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar or Don Bradman. There would be no more “Britain’s got talent”, thank God! The decline of the BBC would be stopped dead, literally. The Syrian civil war would be ended by force majeur
. We would never have to see another photo of Lady Gaga and Belgium would avoid another Christmas rail strike.
Of course, the downside is that I shall miss my grand-niece growing up. We’ll never know whether the Royal baby is a boy, girl, twins or a corgi and I will have paid nearly two grand for a Macbook Air (my first non-Microsoft computer) that I shall use for exactly 12 hours ... hardly enough time to adjust to a new interface. And it’s all the fault of the Maya for running out of chisels or felt-tips or whatever they wrote with, as if we should ever have entrusted the business of keeping our agenda to a race of fallen kings whose idea of the predictability of any given appointment is a file-o-fax laid out in 4 creational epochs, each consisting of 13 sets of 394 years apiece, whereby the current epoch’s numeric value in relation to our solar system’s precession through the galactic axis is the final clincher as to whether or not I get to see my dentist at 14:30 on Friday 21st.
Note to self: Keep eating Fiona’s fudge, Edwin, for this may never happen.
© Edwin Drood
, December 2012
* Of course, Quetzalcoatl was an Aztec deity, but he was also worshipped in the Mayan panoply as either Kukulcan or Gukumatz. I thought Quetzalcoatl would be more immediately recognizable to an airline flight announcer than Gukumatz ... and most of my readers will agree with me.
Illustration: "Mayan on the run" by © David John