Apocalypse Later

Oops, the world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012 after all.  Slight miscalculation, folks.  We may have fifty to sixty more days (or years, depending on which news you read this morning.  Dammit.  Of all the cosmic events to miss.  If it’s years, I’ll be dead by then, shot by a jealous husband at 103.  (Let me see…that’s 2060…yep, too late.)

In a perverse kind of way, I actually enjoy the commercial exploitation of this phenomenon.  For one thing, I am fascinated by the market for gullibility.  From politician Jack Conway’s apparently genuine fear of Aqua Buddha and his worshipers to recalculations of the Apocalypse, the human animal provides a unique kind of entertainment.

For another thing, I sense a kind of intellectual cleansing here.  Perhaps I am too hopeful, but I figure that people who spend lots of money on movies and books chronicling bizarre events that never happened and never could happen are somehow being marginalized.  That’s a good thing.  Their money is being extracted from them and put to better use.  Likewise with their time.  Chasing lights in the sky keeps them from doing real harm elsewhere.

Would that all human folly were this transparent, limited to the obviously silly.  It is not.  When I first got to my present academic institution, I attended a workshop for new faculty.  Part of the day was spent on the history of Illinois State, including the lore surrounding Ange Milner, or more specifically, her ghost.  Our presenter told the entertaining story of Ange rearranging books in the wee hours of the morning in the basement of the library after which she is named.  Fun stuff.  Then she went on to tell about current employees of the university who had seen Ange or had “close encounters.”

Have you ever made fun of something only to realize the person you are talking to is serious?  You guessed it.  I piped up, half grinning, “Please tell me we do not have grown men and women on this campus who believe in ghosts.”

Dead silence.

Quickly I thought through all the options.  Number one–she is hearing impaired and I need to repeat myself.  Scratch that.  Number two–I have an incredible booger hanging out and she is trying to figure out how to tell me.  No, I did a nose-check just a second ago.  Number three–she believes in ghosts! Sure enough, after some hemming and hawing, she more or less confessed.  Given my verbal bludgeoning of that perspective, an outright confession would have been embarrassing.  Rightly so.

Since then, more than one colleague has solemnly described his/her encounters with or declared belief in Ange Milner’s ghost.  What is it with us?  How can the most magnificent thing we know of–the human brain–come up with a way to go to the moon and yet believe in ghosts and a thousand other kinds of nonsense?  I wish I had an answer to that.  Suffice it to say that the problems we face in the next few years will not come from the center of the Milky Way or in the form of almond-eyed extraterrestrials.  They will come from our own foolishness.  We will be hit by a bus driven by our own leaders while gazing stupidly at the sky.


Terry has never seen a ghost, but he has seen some people who look like ghosts.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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2 Responses to Apocalypse Later

  1. Tracy Doyle says:

    Scoff not, ye non-believer! I could tell you stories. There are still many phenomena which occur in our lives which defy description. We don’t have all the answers yet. Skepticism is healthy, indeed, but out-of-hand dismissal of common experiences of many is not necessarily the most edifying choice and does not enhance our understanding of human nature. JMHO…


  2. ChewyBees says:

    Perhaps ghosts aren’t the only mysterious entity people will believe in. Considering the ease of which a man’s reality can be formed simply by changing his perceptions, I have no doubt that many people believe in ghosts, or demons, or aliens or the Mayan Calendar’s ending of the world. I myself have never seen any of these things. Their existence has entered my perceptions, through the eyes and ears of my senses, but I have never actually connected my brand of reality in contact with something like this. Then again, because they cannot be disproved, I would only limit myself by ever ruling these types of things out entirely.

    There are, however, other entities that a majority of people believe in without having ever come in contact with them. They see them, they hear them, sometimes they even touch them for a brief moment, but these entities are no more real than a ghost or a Martian. I’m talking, of course, about the politician.

    History has taught us, with few if any exceptions, that the politician is a unique kind of anomaly. Upon introduction, and re-introduction, and subsequent re-introductions, the politician is an actor’s actor. Supported by teams of dream-writers, the thing can weave a story of hope, faith and promise that plugs in perfectly to the needy collective psyche of the populace, much like an opiate fits so perfectly in the pain receptors. The money pours in, the believers wave their cloths and sing their songs, and soon the savior-beast has gained the standing so graciously granted by the faithful. And then it disappears. Like the apparition haunting the dusty stacks of some library, once the shouting is over of “I saw it” and “I heard it” the thing just disappears. But the haunting still continues.

    It is impossible to have a representative government, which is what we Americans claim to have, without having access to the person representing us. You can send in your letters and faxes and emails to the missing vapor trails of a politician until your fingers bleed, but in reality you may as well address those to your local library’s ghost or Santa Clause. The entity that made all those promises and wishes almost come true evaporated from your home locale and reappeared in new form in a land far, far away called Washington D.C. Once there, the thing transmographied into the only thing it ever was: a shady rattler of chains in backroom dealings with other shades of the same caliber. Occasionally it will make an appearance, on the television or radio, temporarily morphing back into the teller of yarns about a future that could still be promising if there were just a little more belief, and it will make a feature presentation when it comes time to re-introduce itself and scare the children into voting again. But ultimately, its entire dimension that it will and must return to is one of draining the believers physically and spiritually of all they are worth.

    Halloween truly is a time when the apparitions from other worlds and dimensions make their appearance. And come November they disappear again, off to their haunted house on the hill. As long as the people believe in these ghosts, these ghosts will rule the lives of the people. As for me, I will stick to the real. I will put my trust in a man that I can access face-to-face, that has a stake in my community, my family, and my liberty. Ghosts don’t have any stake in any of this. Ghosts are really only concerned about other ghosts and the phantom world they create using the energy of the people they haunt.


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