December 21, 2012

A look back at the end of the world

Life seems to go on for Mainers and everyone else Friday, despite doomsday predictions.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

For a man facing down centuries of supposed prophecy and, more recently, intense media hype, Chris Ledoux was almost too sanguine.

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Adelene Hills of Belfast

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Herb Porch of Cumberland Center

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

He was insistent, however, on one thing: If the world was to end Friday, as some claimed the Mayan calendar predicted, Ledoux didn't want his last day spent at a shoe store in the Maine Mall.

"If it's the end of the world, there's not much you can do about it," said Ledoux, 23, of Windham, a clerk at the Journeys Shoes. Asked whether the proclamations disturbed him, he grinned.

"Accept that which you cannot change -- and maybe have a drink."

In more than a half-dozen interviews, people said they were not surprised that on Friday, as with every other day on Earth, the sun rose, the trains ran and life continued as normal.

No giant meteor or consuming tidal wave. No apocalypse. The Mayans were wrong.

Though it is doubtful that many held true fears of cataclysm, the date was easy fodder for weeks of Internet prognosticators, broadcast news anchors and conspiracy theorists.

The rumors gathered enough momentum that in November, NASA, an agency responsible for some of the most detailed information about our universe, took time to debunk buzz surrounding its supposed end.

"Claims behind the end of the world quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline," the agency wrote in a terse Web posting in November. "Where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none."

Somewhere in Cape Canaveral, eyes rolled. But back at the Maine Mall, some people weren't so sure.

Dan Hubbard, who was laid off last week from a manufacturing plant, acknowledged that he and everyone else were, in fact, alive. But looking at current events, he still lamented.

"With the state of the world and the economy, it kind of feels like it," Hubbard said.

Adelene Hills, 21, of Belfast said people often want to believe that anything is possible, even if the theory is as jarring as the end of the world. She posited that the myth's ancient origins influenced willingness to entertain the apocryphal assertions.

"People are more ready to believe something if it's backed by years of history," Hills said.

Leo Avitale, a clerk at a kiosk who rang in the end of the world by wearing a festive Santa cap, attributed the apocalyptic talk to universal tendencies.

"Human beings look for answers for anything," said Avitale, 28, of Yarmouth. "I don't think people like the world the way it is."

This prediction of worldly destruction was only the latest to rouse fears. As far back as Roman times, believers prepared for the end, only to be disappointed.

Charismatic leaders have for years convinced followers of such tales, perhaps most vividly in 1997, when 39 members of the Heaven's Gate religious group committed suicide after they were led to believe that death would commune them with a spaceship obscured by the passing Hale Bopp comet.

It was an incident Herb Porch of Cumberland Center remembered well. But Porch, 70, dismissed the suggestion and took a jab at his own mortality.

"Every day above ground is a plus day," he said.

 

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@mainetoday.com

 

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Additional Photos

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Dan Hubbard of Poland, Maine

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Leo Avitale of Yarmouth

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Chris Ledoux

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer



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