Apocalypse Now

Illustration by Taylor Barnes

[I] was seven years old when I realized that it was possible for the world to end. I can remember it so clearly, the very height of Y2K fever. I wound through the towering aisles at Costco with my mother as she self-consciously accumulated a cart-full of non-perishable food. When I asked, she gently explained to me why the store was more crowded than usual – something about computers, data storage, and an end to life as we knew it.

I reacted by barely reacting. At first I was stunned – it’s jarring, after all, to suddenly be aware of your own impermanence. Gradually though, a sense of acceptance settled in and I became almost impartial. I didn’t quite like the idea of the apocalypse, but if it was going to happen I’d just have to deal with it.

That year I stayed up until midnight for the first time – I think I mostly just wanted to see if planes really would start dropping from the sky. When they didn’t, I yawned, stretched out on the couch and fell asleep.

So many potential doomsdays have failed to materialize since then and I’ve approached each with a similar indifference. Large Hadron Collider in 2008? Not much I can do to stop a blackhole. Harold Camping and the great Rapture campaign of 2011? I’d be powerless in the midst of the second coming.

But this year, as we approach the long-dreaded December 2012, things are different. This year, I am putting my foot down. Not only have I decided that I don’t want the world to end, but I have come to the conclusion that it can’t.

Not here. Not now.

First off, let me just say, this is coming at a pretty inconvenient time for me. I need to finish my degree. I need to get over my last relationship. There’s a pile of National Geographic back issues on my coffee table that have so far only served the purpose of falsely impressing house guests.

I’ve just turned 20 and things are finally starting to look up. I have at least another 15 years of being physically attractive left, and I am clinging to dreams of one day being published in the Walrus. The apocalypse can’t take that away from me.

Of course though , this extends beyond me. I’m a mere one person in nearly seven billion, which makes my stance all the more valid. If the impending apocalypse isn’t coming at a convenient time for me, it sure as hell isn’t coming at a convenient time for the human race.

For one thing, collectively we still have far too many unresolved issues. Poverty gaps are steadily widening on both global and local levels. Multiple countries remain in the throes of what is hoped will be a revolution. The Western Canon is still overwhelmingly comprised of books written by white dudes.

Rob Ford is still the mayor of Toronto.

For us, a number of questions remain unanswered: Is education a right or a privilege? Who did let the dogs out? Will we ever find a functional alternative to capitalism? Man, is Paul dead, or not?

All the while, such promise seems so close. This year alone we cured AIDS in a man, found the God Particle, landed the Mars Rover.

The inventions we’re building are incredible (those new Google glasses are essentially like strapping an iPad to your face!) and we’re moving forward socially too (thank you Obama for finally endorsing same-sex marriage).

We need to see how these things play out.

When I look at what we (them, you, those who came before) have accomplished, it becomes clear how unacceptably little we’ve managed in some areas, and how beautifully close we are to (temporary?) resolution in others. To me, it seems inane to end it all now, while we’re simultaneously so far behind and so on the cusp.

For all of humanity to perish in the next three months, at such a senseless time in such a senseless way, would invalidate our progressions and leave us humans as a race sadly unaccomplished.

This time I can’t allow myself to accept the apocalypse is coming. This time I need to feel like this is worth it.