December 21, 2012
The Spiritual Y2K
sraelis like to tell a fable
of a Russian Jew who
goes to his rabbi in
search of a job. The rabbi
instructs the man to
stand at the village gate
each morning and wait
there to greet the Mes-
siah when he comes. For
this, the rabbi offers the
man one ruble a month.
"The pay is so low7the
says the rabbi, "but the
job security is excellent."
Humanity has seem-
ingly been prepared to meets its maker since Adam and
Eve left Eden for parts unknown. On its face, the concept
of apocalypse doesn't seem all that inspiring. In fact, tak-
ing the scenario to its natural conclusion, it's downright
Yet, people love it. America's favorite "trashy" supermar-
ket tabloid, the now-defunct Weekly World News, made
End Times coverage part of its regular stable of cover
stories, along with Batboy and Zombie Elvis.
In fact, a study conducted by a religious tolerance
group in Ontario, Canada, found that in the year 2000,
the tabloid had End Times predictions in 42 out of the 52
issues published that year. The one prognostication WWN
failed to unearth? That would be its own demise, seven
So, why is the apocalypse so popular? (Admittedly, I
love it, too!) The short answer, of course, is that it's easier
to cope with the obliteration of society in one fell swoop
than it is to decide who's taking Becky to dance class —
because you both work. Oh, and don't forget that the
mortgage is due on Wednesday. And, by the way,
did you forget to call my mother yesterday? It was
her birthday, you know.
I asked a friend, Dr. Bella Schanzer, head of the
psychiatry department at the John D. Dingell Veterans
Affairs Medical Center in Detroit, what the medical
explanation is as to why people take comfort in
appal- e i
After some witty retorts, Schanzer
was able to synthesize the apoca-
lypse's chaotic appeal into a nice,
clean quote — as only a shrink
could:"Oftentimes, people fixate
on things like'doomsday' as a
way to avoid having to deal with
problems in the here and now,"
she says. "By believing that the
end is near, people don't need
to worry about solving their real
issues because, once the world
ends, those problems will 'go
And there you have it. Who
wouldn't rather just believe we are
helpless in our doom and throw
caution to the wind?
In the reporting for this month's
story, Beth Robinson and I spent count-
less hours digging to unearth whether
we really are imperiled and — if not — then
why the hubbub about an end to the Mayan
Long Count Calendar?
In truth, it's a fascinating subject. Separating the
wheat from the chaff is the challenge. I won't tell you in
this column whether you're safe or not (read the story
on page 23), but I will say the most revealing quote Beth
found on the subject is also this column's headline.
KICKING OFF THE NEW YEAR
The staff at Red Thread likes to think of this
magazine as a kind of journalism lab experiment.
We try one thing and, if it doesn't work, we swap
it out with something else. The year 2011 has
been an amazing one and, to borrow a phrase
from Sinatra, "the best is yet to come."
Last spring, we launched a monthly cof-
fee klatch with some impressive first results.
However, it became apparent that asking people
to gather at 9 a.m. on a weekday was a tall order,
given most of us should be at work.
With that, we're going to revamp our monthly
Mayan Long Count Calendar
meet 'n' greet and try a bar night instead.
This way, people can stop off on their way home, grab
a quick bite and talk about issues facing our community.
The first bar night is scheduled for 5-7:30 p.m. Wednes-
day, Jan. 18, 2012, at Mosaic Restaurant in Detroit's Greek-
town. We'll tell you more about it next year!
On behalf of Gail, Keri, Jackie and David (my col-
leagues), we want to wish you a happy, healthy and
prosperous New Year. Live it up — it could be our last.
Fi l l eftssfs
access° (le s
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powertitl and emotional portraits of Je:,141,
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the Philadelphia Mu•earn of Art, In Detroit, the exhibition is generously 4ponsored by a gift
from - Uhe t hi di iolo Family. Add it iotia I support has been provided by the City of Detroit; This
exhlition is supported E an indemnity flora the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Head of Jesus, attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn,
oil on oak panel. Detroit Institute of Arts.
RED TIMID I December 2011 5