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Rachel Riederer: It’s Not the End of the World

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December 17, 2012

This week, Guernica Daily explores the idea of End Times.

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Image from Flickr via snowpeak

Since the beginning, we’ve been talking about The End. Some Buddhist texts predict that humanity will fall into decline and lose all knowledge of the dharma after 5,000 years; the Christian Book of Revelation describes a cosmic war in which a 7-headed dragon pulls the stars from the sky; in Islamic tradition, the end of days comes when a pleasantly scented wind peacefully kills the pious, leaving the sinners to hash out planetary affairs. Even physics has eschatology: after 1040 years of expansion and proton decay, the universe will be dominated by black holes, or so the theory goes. And of course the Mayans predicted the world would end this Friday—or wait, they actually did not say that at all.

This week Guernica Daily will be dedicated to discussions of The End. We’ll clear up that Mayan apocalypse business, remember some failed armageddons throughout history, and visit with folks who are still waiting patiently. We will also try to figure out what’s behind America’s new linguistic habit of suffixing every little unpleasantness with -pocalypse. Some historical doomsday chatter is laughable (wait for Nathaniel Flagg’s cartoon detailing the adventures of the egg-laying Cassandra, the Prophet Hen of Leeds). But the contemporary stuff is terrifying in a completely non-celestial way. We’ll have Bill McKibben on the very real planetary emergency of climate change, and photo essays of melting glaciers and dried-up seas that are scarier than any 7-headed dragon.

We’ll also have pieces, both fiction and non, that deal with smaller, more personal apocalypses. I often respond to tales of woe with the phrase “it’s not the end of the world,” but am trying to break myself of this habit. The death of a family member, the dissolution of a romance, the loss of a job or a home or a retirement account—any of these can feel apocalyptic. And while these events don’t mark the end of the world, they certainly can end a world that we knew and liked the way it was.

Editing these pieces reminded us that apocalypse narratives actually tend to be stories of renewal. In most traditions, it’s the cosmic war that ushers in a new age. We hope you’ll find this week’s pieces as fascinating as we have—there’s something tantalizing about burning it all to the ground and resetting the clock at zero.

Rachel Riederer is the editor of Guernica Daily.


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Check back all week for more explorations of The End.

Essays

Caleb Daniloff: Russia, Cradle of My Dead Worlds

Meaghan Winter: Extinction is the Rule


Erika Anderson: The Apocalist

Jen Vafidis: Jane Jacobs Looks Into the Gloom

Interviews

Bill McKibben: Planetary Emergency

Anna Harrah: The Once and Future Bling

Joel Kovel and Quincy Saul: Apocalypse and Revelation Are the Same Word

Visuals

Anne McClintock: Too Big to See With the Naked Eye

Nathaniel Flagg: Apocalypse Illustrated

Flash Fiction

Steve Chang: Eternity

Christine Lee Zilka: Maps

Julia Fierro: Inventory

Lauren K. Alleyne: The Way the Body Goes

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