Thursday, January 6, 2011

Apocalypse Now...or Maybe Later

When I was a young girl, there were a few things I was absolutely, positively sure of.

I believed the evangelical televangelists my mom watched when they said the Rapture and the Tribulation were coming, and that right soon. I believed that aliens had visited our planet, probably on multiple occasions, and that someday they would make their presence known in a spectacular, possibly violent, manner. I fervently believed in ghosts, and that angels walked among us, and that each of us has a soul that either goes to heaven or gets stuck here on earth in a kind of purgatory when we die. Finally, I believed in a myriad of government cover-ups and conspiracies including, but not limited to, the JFK assassination. No way, I thought at 17, did Lee Harvey Oswald take down a president of these United States all by himself.

I am older and, for the most part, wiser now. I am more of a skeptic about almost everything; thirty-six years on this planet have taught me an awful lot about people, science, and faith. A fantastic professor in college (the first Jewish person I'd ever known, and perhaps ironically, the most knowledgeable scholar of the New Testament I've ever had the pleasure of listening to) taught us that the book of Revelations is not meant to be read literally, but was written in code to provide hope and comfort to struggling Christians in the years following Jesus' death. I've learned about just how special and possibly unique the conditions on our own earth are and how, even if we're not alone, the intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe may be so different from us and so far away that any kind of clear contact could be impossible. I've had some hair-raising encounters with mediums, psychics, and ghost talkers and had some experiences that I choose to interpret with my heart, but that could easily be explained away with science and a hefty helping of bereavement psychology. And even though my 12th-grade government teacher would be appalled to hear me say this, after an entire grading period of persuasion (I mean instruction), I do think it's possible for one man, even a man of questionable skill, to kill a president. Little men can kill great men, even though it doesn't seem remotely right or fair for the world to work that way.

But inside the skepticism is still that little girl who, like Fox Mulder, wants to believe. I don't keep a flying saucer poster hanging in our family room in imitation of Mulder's "I Want to Believe" wall decoration for nothing. I do want to believe, and I can't really decide whether I am a skeptic or a true believer. It kinda depends on the day, as ridiculous and wishy-washy as that sounds.

And now that birds are falling out of the skies, and fish are dying, and hundreds of little quakes have happened in a little Arkansas town without a fault line near, and the frickin' Lost numbers showed up in the Mega Millions jackpot, for crying out loud, the skeptic's shrewd eyes have failed and I am utterly, completely convinced that apocalypse is nigh.

I've been jokingly sending texts and emails to my friends since all this freaky stuff started hitting the airwaves. "The end is here! Party at my house! Hurry, before it's too late and all the Unibroue is gone!" "Beware the imminent alien invasion! Stock up on water and baseball bats!" (That's for you, Signs fans.) "Stay the eff out of western Kentucky! The New Madrid fault is gonna bloooooooow..." (Well, that one almost makes sense, scientifically speaking. We're due for The Big One, and animals often freak out before Big Ones, right?) But I'm not really sure that I'm joking.

A thousand birds dying of massive blunt-force trauma on New Year's Eve? Okay, I can buy that maybe possibly a scare from fireworks was responsible. But then further reports came out of dead birds in Louisiana, and western Kentucky, and then a bunch of fish died, and then I read from a blogger that close to that same area in Arkansas there had been all these freaky little earthquakes all fall, and so on, and so on. Something is up here, kids. It could be God. It could be aliens. It could be geography, biology, or seismology. It could be an X-File. But don't tell me it's nothing.

It's waaaay too much fun to pretend it's something.

I didn't realize how much I needed a good paranormal-ish mystery (not in my backyard, though, thank God... or whatever) to unfurl my long-missing crazy conspiracy "Spooky Librarian" flag. Rational explanations can be so boring sometimes. Occam's razor cuts too neat a line. I want to talk about some freaky, paranormal weirdness for a change.

And hope (and maybe pray) that despite all this fun, science is right. Because I like this planet too much to have to leave it just yet. I like the idea of an alien invasion in theory, but in practice, it would just make modern life so darned inconvenient. The aliens might not like Modern Family as much as we do, and then where would we be?

Before Christmas, and before all this explained-but-not-explained stuff happened, I had an interesting conversation with one of Jason's brothers about some of these favorite subjects of mine from my naive youth. He's a fan of Ancient Aliens and had me look up the "alien" cave paintings profiled in one of the episodes. Yep, those look like aliens on those walls, alright.Then we started talking about JFK's autopsy, the Magic Bullet, smoke on the grassy knoll, and the Zapruder film ("Back, and to the left....Back, and to the left..." I can still hear my government teacher say.) It was enough to make me a hard-core believer again until the next morning when the Kentucky bourbon had worn off and the reality of life in the 21st century kicked in. Is it possible to be an alien and conspiracy agnostic?

I suppose that's as possible as masses of birds dying from trauma that's merely the result of sudden, startled flying. Fireworks, you say. Sure.

Whatever the final, science-sanctioned word ends up being, there will be those who see government conspiracy, cover-up, little green men, or the hand of God. Provided we're still here to talk about all this (there is an evangelical group who has used the Bible to calculate the end of time and we might only have until May, so live it up), even the last word will not be the last word. This is way too interesting and juicy a tale for me to accept a simple explanation for.

The truth is out there. But it's not nearly as interesting as speculation.

Are you a conspiracy nut? Are there alien bodies recovered from Roswell frozen in a secret hangar at Wright Patterson? Are the end times coming? Or are you just going to use all this apocalypse talk as an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry (for tomorrow we die)?

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