Here at Killing the Buddha, we’ve been all over the apocalypse for a long time. The apocalypse is kind of like Christmas: it threatens to happen just about every year, or then maybe it does, or doesn’t, and anyway life goes on. As the apparently Mormon-inspired sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica likes to say “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.” To wit: in 2009 we celebrated the release of the movie 2012 with a week of apocalypse coverage. And then in 2011 we did so again in honor of Harold Camping’s dubious prediction.
So how to make this year special? Visions of “the end” are kind of like collective moments of Buddha-killing practice. We all see that Buddha on the road, some of us (e.g. Harold Camping) are more convinced of its reality than others. But in any case on January 2nd, 2001; or May 22, 2011; or December 22, 2012; that Buddha is dead. And time for another. The story can get a little tiresome. Which is why I was excited when the organizers of an “End of the End” conference, which would “bring together a wildly diverse group of speakers, artists, educators, holy men and women, skeptics, heretics and visionaries to deconstruct the apocalypse, reawaken the imagination, and envision a future without the threat of eschaton” invited Killing the Buddha to participate.
This year, the narrative is a little bit complicated by the fact that the real, looming danger of climate change is coming back into the public consciousness, thanks to another seriously disastrous event, Hurricane Sandy. The world may not have ended, but tell that to the communities of Far Rockaway and Staten Island who are still reeling from its damage and who are being ignored by the public rhetoric of victory over disaster, that nasty denouement to the apocalypse narrative. (“It’s not the end of the world” is another way of saying “Stop crying over spilled milk.”)
So when I heard from “End of the End” conference organizer that the event had been canceled (now-defunct website here), due to his own “apocalyptic Hurricane Sandy property damage,” I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. The narrative of “the end” is a powerful one. But we at KtB still think it can be vanquished. So this week we’re offering a whole slew of defiant celebrations of apocalypse. It may be the end, but always also the beginning.
Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press, 2011). An editor of Killing the Buddha, she lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Follow Brook on Twitter: @modmyth