01/04/2012 04:46 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2012

2012: Apocalypse... Not?

A (Happy?) New Year from the (Impending?) Apocalypse

As told to Steve Heilig

Greetings to the 7 billionth human, and welcome to earth!

Please allow me to introduce myself... my name is Apocalypse. You may have heard rumors that I am coming for a visit soon, and could cause quite a ruckus. Well, anything's possible. But perhaps there are a few things you might like to consider first.

This is not the first rumor of my impending appearance, not by a long shot. In fact, you humans have been predicting my arrival for many millennia. People you now call "prehistoric," plus ancient Greeks, Romans, Native Americans both North and South, etc. -- all have had longstanding legends of my coming. Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, all have had some version of me to fear or embrace. Each landmark in time, say a millennium year, a total eclipse, or a comet coming relatively close to earth, brings more predictions of my impending arrival. Some take things into their own hands -- Genghis Khan killed over 10 percent of the human population in his time; your World Wars fell short of that but were plenty horrendous, and some humans -- Native Americans, to choose just one example, have already had their apocalyptic experience with no need for my help. You cannot blame me for those.

For some Christians, of course, the Book of Revelation has long provided a fairly detailed and harrowing tale of what I am supposed to bring. And it ain't a pretty picture. But to deal with the fear and loathing, some folks hope for a "rapture" of some kind to precede me and save them from the rough stuff. Even some would-be presidential candidates say I could be coming anytime now. For a local example, see the repeated scares fostered by that Camping guy in Oakland -- c'mon, sir, I'm patient and forgiving but one more time and careful what you ask for! Better listen to your main man Jesus for once -- "But of that day and hour no one knows."

On that note, let us turn to a more modern sort of "Bible," The Book of Wikipedians:

Some notable predictions of the date of the rapture include the following:

1844 -- William Miller predicted that Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction to October 22, 1844.
1914, 1915, 1925, 1942 -- Various dates predicted for the rapture by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
1970 -- Hal Lindsay's bestseller The Late Great Days of Planet Earth predicted rapture in the 1970s; followed by 1980s Countdown to Armegeddon, which scheduled it for the 1980s.
1981 -- Chuck Smith predicted that Jesus would probably return by 1981.
1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, by Edgar Whisenant.
1989 -- Publication of The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989, by Whisenant; subsequent predictions for 1992, 1995, and other years.
1992 -- A Korean group, the Mission for the Coming Days, predicted rapture on October 28, 1999.
1993 -- Multiple predictions begin for the year 2000.
1994 -- Pastor John Hinkle predicted rapture on June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 6, 1994.
2011 -- Harold Camping's revised prediction of May 21, 2011 as the date of the rapture. Afterwards, he claimed a "spiritual judgment" had taken place, and that the physical rapture would occur on October 21, 2011.
2060? -- In 1704, Sir Issac Newton held Apocalypse would happen no earlier than 2060.
2010 -- In a "Thank God It's Doomsday" episode of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson predicts the rapture to occur within the week.. ...Ahem.

I seem to have been a great disappointment to many. Y2K? Pffft. Nostradamus? Sorry, sir. Even Bob Dylan got it wrong during his devout phase. Others of a more "new agey" bent have called on me to attend something called a "harmonic convergence" back in the 1980s, and now we have aficionados of a "Mayan Calendar" and other supposed traditions naming the new year 2012 as THE time for... well, something. The more technologically inclined -- i.e., geeks -- have posted something called a "singularity,' which appropriately rhymes with "hilarity." There's no consensus on what is coming, and I ain't telling... yet. Gotta keep folks guessing, and patience is a virtue.

I will say this much -- there's really no need to come up with elaborate or simple exotic theories about when I might arrive. I'm not so sure why so many of you seem to enjoy doing that, but when I do show up, it might indeed be subtle, "not with a bang, but a whimper," as one of your great poets expressed it -- or it might not. Look around. Signs are everywhere. Your climate is changing, and don't let anybody tell you that you are not part of the problem. The atomic weapons you built are still waiting, and on hair-triggers. There are already too many of you for the amount of food and water available and many more of you to arrive. A billion of you are almost always hungry, and many starve. The ocean fisheries are collapsing. Uncounted other species are already having their own apocalypse, but the microorganisms that were here before you still threaten your entire species. Your own waste and pollution might be your own undoing. Economies are melting down. Hell, almost every environmental or economic indicator looks scary at this point. You now own over one billion cars. Millions of people seem to really care about something called a "Kardashian."

What to do? Again, look around -- those of you fighting to save everyone from my dreaded arrival in any of the above guises are your best -- maybe only -- hope. But then go look in a mirror -- you might indeed not only be part of the problem, but the ones you've been waiting for. Think about it -- but not for too long. For I am you and you are I, and one never knows when we might show up.


Note: a version of this message to humanity appears in the current issue of Common Ground Magazine, with a nice scary photo, here: