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Ambiguity plagues end of the world

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Daniel Cucher
By Daniel Cucher
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday November 26, 2002

People are masturbating in the library. Certainly the end is at hand. But on the other hand, the sun did rise this morning in its usual fashion. The unfinished student union building is still an integral part of student life, as students duck and dodge debris while weaving their way to class.

You see it everywhere. Signs telling us that the end is drawing near, we should safeguard our eternal souls by following (insert sacred religious text here). And also, signs telling us that there is no end and no beginning, and indeed not even a point to holding a sign. There are even signs that the end is come and gone, leaving us wandering around in the sad aftermath, desperately searching for meaning and better cell phone reception.

What are we to make of these signs? Before jumping to any conclusions (because pairing conclusive statements with the end of the world is just a bit pretentious), it would be wise to examine, in painstaking detail, what exactly these signs are trying to tell us.

But first, we have to establish credibility. Who is telling us the world is ending? For example, if the United Nations meets, takes a vote and decides to end the world, then I might pack my bags. However, if someone with a British accent tells me, very politely, the end is coming, then I will definitely prepare my rioting and looting gear. Conversely, if I hear it from one of my hallucinatory companions (the blue flower, for example) then I might hesitate before I castrate myself and wait for the rocket ship.

Now that we've established who it is one can and cannot trust in the ways of end-day prophesy, let's get to the heart of this painstaking detail bit. We shall begin by considering this classic sign: "The Beast will rise up, seriously pissed, twenty nostrils flaring and begin smiting things." Just what the hell does this mean? At the very least, we can infer that there is a beast. But what constitutes a beast? Is it fangs? Fire-breath? The most electoral votes? We'll never know. Or, maybe we will, and soon. Very soon.

What about this sign: "Freeway ends 1,500 feet"? Is this freeway an analogy for the world, from start to finish? And what exactly does "1,500 feet" mean? Is this another reference to the beast? No. It probably means the freeway ends in 1,500 feet, but we can't ever be sure. Or can we?

How about this sign: "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine," courtesy of Michael Stipe? Now, Michael Stipe is a fairly credible character, but what's with this end-times optimism? Have we been misled? Is the end of the world actually a good thing? Is it the beginning of something else? Perhaps a world of vast nothingness, which isn't a world at all and essentially negates its own existence? Well, this is hardly worth considering. Or is it? No. But then it could be. Maybe.

And what are we to do if the world fails to end? Shall we make signs heralding the world's infinite continuance? "The Beast: yesterday's news," or, "The World: It's what's happening." Of course, science tells us our sun will eventually expand into a red giant and consume our precious little blue dot. But science will, no doubt, find a way to prevent this. This we know definitely. With the painstaking analysis behind us, we can, from this, now conclude only one thing: We have no definite conclusions. Except for this one: The world either will or will not end, and it may happen very soon, later or not at all. And, in fact, the question is not "Is the end at hand?" The question is well, we don't know what the question is, but it's probably a damned good one. Unless it isn't.

Either way, we will, most assuredly, have no answers. But we might.

Justin Trapp contributed to this column.

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