This is the way the world ends 
 Not with a bang but a whimper.

– T.S. Eliot The Hollow Men

The Metaphysical Hangover

Far more fearsome than the physical hangover, writes Kingsley Amis in his practical and entertaining guide to Everyday Drinking (Bloomsbury, 2008, Introduction by the late, lamented Christopher Hitchens) is the Metaphysical Hangover:

When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is, and there is no use crying over spilt milk.

Amis goes on to propose a good, long weep over a sad poem or piece of music, on the principle that “you must feel worse emotionally before you start to feel better.”

We here at Big Think are mindful that it is New Years’ Day. If you are in the throes of a metaphysical hangover, we offer you the cure: a whimper over the Mayan prophecy of apocalypse in the year 2012, followed by a shattering meditation upon the various ways the world might end.

The Mayan Prophecy

The Apocalypse prediction biz suffered badly this year at the hands of media darling Harold Camping, who twice made us mark our calendars for a Rapture that never came.

So what of this more pernicious notion that the Mayan calendar predicts some kind of apocalypse on December 12, 2012, at the end of a “long count” of 5,125 years? Well, according to Mayan scholars – who can read Mayan and understand the calendar – it’s utter bunk. They find no references anywhere in Mayan art or writing to “great cycles” ending or cataclysmic events associated with them.

Still, predicting the apocalypse is scary and fun, so –  undimmed by these scientific wet blankets – variations of the 2012 prediction proliferate all over the internet, promising everything from eternal punishment to worldwide spiritual transformation.


 The end of the world is good news for Mexico, which expects 52 million visitors next year to the Yucatan peninsula, seat of the ancient Mayan civilization. The country is planning a yearlong celebration to honor 2012 as a "time of renewal." 


The Seas Could Turn to Sulphur and Poison Us 

Paleontologist Peter Ward warns that heating of the poles could lead to deoxygenation of the oceans, spurring the growth of poisonous sulfur-gas-producing bacteria.

An Asteroid Could Smash Us to Bits

Astronomer and Astrophysicist Edward Sion explores the unlikely possibility that an asteroid could obliterate us.

A Black Hole Could Swallow Us

Physicist Melissa Franklin says it wouldn’t be so terrible, really, if the Large Hadron Collider created a black hole that swallowed everything instantly.

Maybe We Could Escape To a Parallel Universe?

While Physicist Michio Kaku believes the Earth will be enveloped in a “deep freeze,” he advances the comparatively sunny proposition that we may be able to escape to a parallel universe.

But rest assured, none of these things will happen today. So get out there and make the most of the New Year!

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter

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