As you may have heard, the world is going to end in fourteen days. The Maya said so. On Dec. 21, something calamitous—nobody is quite certain what—will happen. Perhaps Planet X will collide with our pitiful perambulating space rock, or perhaps an electromagnetic pulse will strike, and that terrible J.J. Abrams show will become reality. Maybe Roland Emmerich will win an Academy Award. Rest assured, however, that human civilization will cease to exist on this upcoming winter solstice.
Many of the so-called skeptics from the bourgeois intelligentsia claim that the impending apocalypse is somehow a sham, alluding to such farcical constructions as “actual Mayan history” and “common sense.” They will urge you to continue business as usual on the 21st, even going as far as to say that those of us aware of our imminent doom are “conspiracy theorists” or “crazy.” These people are wrong, and I shall enlighten you all as to why.
Now, you may have noticed that Dec. 21 also happens to be the final day of the semester. Coincidence? I think not. Over the next fourteen days, a maelstrom of term papers and final exams will inundate us, sweeping us toward the deep end of sanity. By the end of it all, instant oblivion may even be a relief. I submit to you that the co-occurrence of the oncoming global cataclysm with the end of the fall semester is a sign from the stars—the stars that the ancient Maya watched thousands of years ago as they crafted their calendar. I can think of no better way of ushering in Earth’s destruction than by celebrating the completion of an intellectual journey.
You may ask yourself: Why even struggle through the tribulations of the semester’s closing days? Would I not enjoy my final fortnight more if I spent it playing video games or attending some of the many festive pre-apocalyptic celebrations that will inevitably materialize? In response, I grant that bacchanalian orgies are an indispensable element of any countdown to Armageddon, but you have an earthly mission to complete, one that requires you study for exams and get around to that 15-page tome due in a week. Then, when the four horsemen stare you down, you can take solace in their recognition of your collegiate achievements and be content with how you proved yourself as the end of days approached.
For those of you deficient in satire-detection skills, I shall at this point spell out that I do not expect any particularly interesting apocalyptic events to take place on the 21st. I also do not think the contingent of students at the 5Cs subscribing to such a belief is very large. I want to observe, however, that, for one reason or another, we as a species continue to indulge eschatological fantasies, as though we on some level cannot wait for the world to end. We seem to have an innate death wish that spans across belief systems and that remains undeterred by the failings of countless prophecies, from Nostradamus to Y2K. Authorities from NASA to historians of Maya civilization implore us to question the specious arguments behind the 2012 theories, but many of us nevertheless hope that superstition wins out. I do not accept that we are masochists, however. In fact, I think we dream about the end in order to convince ourselves that the present has meaning. We anticipate apocalypse not to celebrate death but to live life properly, with urgency.
Although a more likely snapshot of your life this Dec. 21 is one of relaxing time with your family or preparation for the winter holidays, I have found that exulting in comforting visions of the near future deadens my resolve in the present. For that reason, I encourage us all to pretend that the exigency of the semester’s closing comes from a vision of carnage the likes of which even the History Channel cannot convey. Push through these final two weeks as though they mark your final chance both to prove your ability and to get the most out of your education, because in one small, localized sense, they do. The end of the semester means the end of another chapter in your college career. You will never have the chance to take the same courses with the same professors and classmates again, so look at exams and final projects as a way for you to decide just what these past three months in Claremont have meant to you in a larger context. From then on, simply live each day with the panicked earnestness you would have minutes before planetary annihilation.