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When the world didn’t end… again

The ‘signs’ were all there, the Pope was meeting Obama, CERN ‘would open a portal to another dimension’, there were to be blood moons, asteroids and the many coincidences surrounding  the Number 23. The Sunday Mail’s Alix Norman waited for ‘the end’ that never came on September 23.

By Alix Norman

CANCEL the paper. Stop the milk. And tell your nearest and dearest how much you love them (or, if you’ve truly no fear, let them know about that dodgy weekend in Mykonos). Because nothing really matters any more. The world has ended. Possibly.

It’s Wednesday September 23 and, as my fingers flutter at the keys, I’ve got one ear cocked for the last trumpet. Because today, apparently, life as we know it will grind to a screeching halt: depending on your point of view, we’re either in for the Apocalypse, the Rapture or the Aliens….

For years, conspiracy theorists have been predicting the end of the world. There was Nostradamus’ ‘King of Terror’ in 1999, then Y2K, and the Mayan apocalypse in December 2012. Something in human nature demands closure, perhaps necessitated by the desperate need to believe that our generation is the last – and thus most important – to walk this Earth. In fact, as far back as the records go, various prophets have been upping their public image by foreseeing doom: in 66AD, the Essene sect believed the revolt against the Romans to be the final battle before the arrival of the Messiah, while the late 1600s saw Puritan minister Cotton Mather’s predictions of disaster thwarted no fewer than three times by the planet’s stubborn refusal to implode. So what was it that made 23/9/15 so different?

Well, if paranoia is to be believed, a host of prophecies point to this date as the ‘End of Times’. Some are wacky (coded references in films are a firm favourite: Deep Impact, The Matrix, Volcano and even Little Shop of Horrors all supposedly alluding to September 23, 2015), some are wondrous (Biblical citations abound, the meeting of the Pope and Obama being more sinister than it might appear, an unprecedented series of blood moons) and still others are based on ‘science’ (meteors striking Puerto Rico, asteroids flailing off course, and even CERN getting a look-in – with its unwitting creation of a portal to another universe!). Conjecture is running rife – fuelled by the internet – and there’s barely a conspiracy theory out there that hasn’t been dusted off and bandied round in honour of the occasion.

The tsunami from the film Deep Impact
The tsunami from the film Deep Impact

Of course, those of us who have a healthy respect for common sense – when we’re not indulging in imaginative flights and frights – fully intend to finish this piece come Hell or High Water (yes, they’re both in the mix. Google it!). But, if the world were truly about to end, what would those with a less stringent work ethic get up to in their last 24 hours? A straw poll of the office throws up some startling answers; though most people immediately declare for friends and family, everything from sky diving to canine nourishment gets a mention as we split into two camps: partyers and pragmatists.

Flying the flag for the former, our Editor in Chief would spend her last 24 hours with her family, having a bit of a laugh and – in true Irish fashion – “a few drinks to see us on our way. What else would there be left to do?” she says. “People like to be scared,” she adds, “we seem to have a built in doom-o-meter, we enjoy the adrenaline rush of fear. But I don’t think anybody really feels that the end is upon us.”

Similarly sceptical, our film critic would spend 24 hours in a state of pure relaxation – “NOT watching any movies, because I’d never have to review anything ever again!” He’s fairly typical of the younger male element in the office: wakeboarding, breaking the speed limit (“Now there’s a ticket I’ll never have to pay!”), and skydiving (“I’ve always wanted to try it. Why not go out on a high?”); all seem to be appeal to the devil-may-care Y gene. The more mature are also willing to throw consequence to the wind: “I’d drink,” says one. “Not to forget, but because there’d be no hangover. Ever again!”

The women, meanwhile, are mostly more rational. “I don’t really think it’s the end of the world,” says our resident animal-lover. “Though I have made sure I’ve got in extra water and cans of pet food. What if something happens to me and my neighbours eat my dogs?” Our pragmatic Mum-of-three agrees, “I’m an optimist. Nothing will happen. But if it did, I’d like to spend the last 24 hours with my family, without arguments. That would be a relief!”

There’s certainly a diversity of opinion amongst the hoi polloi, but what do the experts think – should we all be confessing our sins and preparing for the Second Coming? “If you go purely by scripture,” says Jeremy Crocker, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, “the Book of St John describes a number of things that have to happen before the end of the world, and we do indeed seem to have ticked many of those boxes: wars and natural disasters and so forth. I’ve heard a great many theories over the years,” he muses – adding that he’d spend his last 24 hours in Woburn Safari Park with his wife and daughters, admiring the animals – “and I can’t dispute it might just be the end of the world. But,” he says with a chuckle, “I highly doubt it.”

Well that’s set my mind at rest. Looks like this article may just make it into print after all. I certainly hope so because not only do I have a lot to look forward to in life (the new season of Downton Abbey has only just begun!) but I think we all have a great deal more to offer this world. So maybe hold off on admitting to that wayward weekend just yet. There’ll be plenty of time to play True Confessions when the next prophecy rears its head. Apparently the entire Universe is set to go up in flames on October 7…

 

 

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