dubious interpretations of Mayan prophesy as well as the X-Files finale, is doomsyear. Several versions zero in on the Winter Solstice of 2012, so we have nearly a whole year to waste. Unless you're in California, where the apocalypse comes in September: that's when Amazon starts charging sales tax.
I've long been interested in apocalyptic tales as stories about the future. In modern literature, H.G. Wells The Time Machine set the standard and defined an aspect of the genre: it's a cautionary tale, a prediction (at least metaphorically) of what the future could be if certain aspects of his present were taken to their logical conclusion. They also happen to be aspects of our present: the great divide between the wealthy and the workers. In Wells' tale, the wealthy evolved into the Eloi, a race of silly brainless but beautiful children. The workers evolved into an entirely different species, the Morlocks, misshapen brutes who lived underground and tended the machines that kept the Eloi ignorantly and blissfully alive--for the sole purpose of serving as the Morlocks' lunchmeat.
These days it's hard to find what we're supposed to be cautionary about in most post-apocalyptic tales, which tend to be the literary equivalent of survivalist fantasies, the fascination of how the last doomed carry on as best they can. The pall of the Climate Crisis is cast over these stories, but seldom explicitly. There just isn't the creative energy that produced so many apocalyptic tales (many explicitly cautionary) in the shadow of the thermonuclear arms race in the 1960s. There hasn't even been an environmental apocalypse to match Soylent Green. Though it could be argued that the fashion for zombies and vampires indicates an apocalyptic mood.
As for the supposed Mayan apocalypse, it lacks much of a good story at all. Plus it's so cosmic that it can't be cautionary--there's nothing we can do but wait for it. The truth will be out there! But there was one interesting observation in a USA Today review of the Mayan apocalypse literature (such as it is):
"The buildup to 2012 echoes excitement and fear expressed on the eve of the new millennium, popularly known as Y2K, though on a smaller scale, says Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor at Publishers Weekly. She says publishers seem to be courting readers who believe humanity is creating its own ecological disasters and desperately needs ancient indigenous wisdom."
Well, that's not wrong. The so-called New Paradigm reflects the Native Paradigm, as science has wandered onto the reservation of taking nature seriously. There's a lot of guff about indigenous wisdom of course, which the Mayan apocalypse fad exemplifies. But seeing humanity as a part of nature, of our time as part of time, of all life as related, which were profound axioms of indigenous cultures, can still be the basis of human civilization's salvation, if such is still possible.
Paperback Reader - This is the last in a series of posts on childhood reading and the origins of my relationships with books, inspired by Larry McMurtry's reflections in his ...
3 weeks ago