What if the world really did end on Friday, December 21, 2012, and the event was so trivial that nobody noticed?


On this December 21, 2012, did our World’s, our America’s Heart of Darkness really stop? Is this really the way the world ends?  Neither with a bang nor even a whimper?  Has the old order really been burnt and snuffed out like the straw effigy of Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night?  What if the world really DID end and nobody cared?  Are we all just stuffed and masked images of dead white male revolutionaries now?  Two years ago I arrived in New Orleans with my son Charlie from his first Semester in College at Saint John’s in Annapolis—and now without rhyme or reason he never calls me, writes me, nor even sends smoke signals—and yes, that does make me feel really rather Hollow….. I grow old, I grow old, but I shall never wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled…. But is anything really real in this night after the world ended?  Today was the day, wasn’t it?  

The Hollow Men

T. S. Eliot (1925)

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

      A penny for the Old Guy

      I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

      II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

      III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

      IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

      V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                                Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

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

1925 was a great year.  T.S. Eliot published the poem reproduced above.  In other events that year, on January 3, 1925 (my wonderful Grandfather’s, Alphonse Bernhard Meyer’s, 27th Birthday), Benito Mussolini asserted dictatorial powers in Italy.  On July 18 of that year, the future Austrian Chancellor of Germany finished and published his autobiography entitled “My Struggle”, and on the date that, 35 years later, would later become my birthday, F. Scott Fitzgerald published “The Great Gatsby.”    

On February 21, 1925, the New Yorker Magazine went into publication for the first time, introducing Eustace Tilley and his Monocle to the World.

One month later, as a direct result of this first publication (and the fact that Eustace Tilley was examining a Butterfly—just as an evolutionary biologist would), on March 21, 1925, the State of Tennessee outlawed the teaching of evolution and immediately “went ape”, immediately proceeding to arrest (on May 5, 1925, 42 years later to become my wife and son’s mother Elena K.’s birthday) indict and prosecute one certain Mr. John Scopes for violating this law in the magnet schools of Metropolitan Dayton, Tennessee.  On July 21, 1925, a mere three days after the publication in Germany of “My Struggle,” John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in his native Dayton and fined $100.00, despite representation by Chicago Attorney Clarence Darrow.  Scopes appealed but later dropped his appeal after a settlement.

In other miscellaneous news, on April 3, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa all went back on the gold standard (that didn’t last too long, though…) and on June 1, 1925, Percy and Florence Arrowsmith were married in Hereford, England. This couple, who celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary June 1, 2005 (Percy aged 105, and wife Florence 100), were (apparently erroneously) acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as record-holders for the longest marriage for a living couple and the greatest aggregate age of a married couple.  Percy only survived a fortnight after their anniversary, dying on June 15, 2005.  There’s a French couple that may have been married longer but 80 years is still a really long time….

Two fortnights after the Arrowsmiths were married, a major earthquake struck the beautiful city of Santa Barbara, California, leveling the entire downtown on June 29, 1925.  FEMA did not then exist, so Santa Barbara recovered rapidly. 

Back on the Western shores of the Atlantic, the second (1915 renascent) Ku Klux Klan demonstrated and held a parade in Washington DC including 40,000 male and female members of the Klan marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of “Silent” Calvin Coolidge’s White House.  In 1925, an estimated 5,000,000 members belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, making it the largest fraternal and social organization in the United States.

During 1925, several important events in the development of Television took place in the U.S. England, including on June 13, Charles Francis Jenkins achieves the first synchronized transmission of pictures and sound, using 48 lines, and a mechanical system. A 10-minute film of a miniature windmill in motion was transmitted 5 miles by “radio” from Anacostia to Washington, DC. The images are viewed by representatives of the National Bureau of Standards, the U.S. Navy, the Commerce Department, and others. Jenkins called this “the first public demonstration of radiovision”.   In Great Britain, between March 25, and October 30, 1925, Scottish engineer John Logie Baird’s developed and put into service Britain’s first television transmitters at Selfridge’s Department store in Soho.

Finally, on Christmas Day, 1925, for whatever it might be worth to note, IG Farben was formed out of the consolidation, conglomeration, and merger of BASF, Bayer, Agfa, Hoechst, and two other companies.

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