Could there be a more fitting end for us than to be crushed by a giant replica of a popular snack food?
I love conspiracy theories. I generally don’t believe them but they do make excellent reads. Cascading through page after page of poorly cited Wikipedia entries on the true meaning of The Shining (Stanley Kubrick helped fake the moon landing) or Lincoln’s real assassin (hint: his dog) is nothing if not wildly entertaining. Still, it seems statistically unlikely that they’re all wrong. Some wild speculator somewhere has to have gotten one right at least once, right? So just to play it safe, I file all conspiracy theories under “Probably Not, But I Wouldn’t Be Surprised.”
Lately my lackadaisical defense of insane ideas has become a problem. It’s the Mayans. I can’t definitively say they were right about the end of the world, commonly interpreted by loons as December 21, but there is an awful lot of weird stuff happening. An increased frequency in Bigfoot sightings, hyper-intelligent dogs driving cars, space spiders, anything at all to do with John McAfee, and now, right on cue, there’s a giant asteroid on its way, one course-altering gas pocket explosion away from careening into Earth. The best part? It’s shaped like a peanut. Could there be a more fitting end for us than to be crushed by a giant replica of a popular snack food?
It’s just all coming together too well for me to comfortably dismiss everything with 100 percent confidence. Sure, the asteroid is a week or so early, but even getting the month of the apocalypse right is still pretty impressive, I think.
I keep thinking about Robert Heinlein’s 1952 short story, The Year of the Jackpot, about a middle-aged statistician that correctly predicts the end of the world. The hero, Potiphar Breen, works for an insurance company but studies cycles in his spare time; geographic, cosmic, social, the works. When too many weird things start happening at once, he decides its “time to jump” and flees into the wilderness with his lady friend. Of course, Heinlein was kind of a lunatic (you kind of have to be to write a lifetime’s worth of original science fiction I think), but he had a way of making everything sound totally reasonable. I’m not advocating that everyone run off into the woods, I’m just saying it can’t hurt to keep an eye out these next few weeks and know that as a reader of Outside, your chances of survival out there are that much higher.
Anyway, having officially stated my position on the end of the world, here’s your Weekend Reading! The winners of last week's quiz will be honored as kings in the next age of man.
Can we ever truly appreciate nature, or are we just trying to realize impossible ideals from centuries past? James Somers investigates our modern relationship with the great outdoors. Outside.
"That’s the paradox. In a culture pervaded by artifice, by self-awareness and advertising, the grand gesture away from it all—'Fuck it, I’m going into the wild'—is just another trope. We’ve seen that movie. In fact it was called Into the Wild and for the parties involved it was sort of a pathetic catastrophe. This is the bind I’m in: I feel small in urban life—'tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized,' as Muir put it. I want to get away for a bit. I’m inspired by Thoreau and company to get really away. But in the very breath of my demand for the “authentic” wild, the un-guided tour, I’m cringing at how flaccid and disgracefully naive I probably sound—how much like one of Krakauer’s goons, the kind of person who will either gentrify the woods or get myself killed in them. This reaching toward the outdoors, far from clearing my head, confounds it further. This deep-seeming thing I crave may well not exist. Or worse, it does—and I’m too bound up by ego to seize it."
Natural gas is plentiful and burns cleaner than coal, but our search for it may alter the planet in ways we never imagined. Marianne Lavelle, National Geographic.