If you're reading this column, let's breathe a sigh of relief. We survived the end of the world.
For those who didn't hear, the Mayan calendar came to an abrupt end Friday. Naturally, the panicky among us assumed the world also would come to an end.
In Russia, hysterical citizens stocked up on food, kerosene and survival supplies, and inmates in a women's prison near China experienced mass psychosis requiring a priest's intervention. France banned access to Bugarach mountain, where end-of-the-world devotees were flocking in search of safe harbor.
I was confident enough in the world's continued existence that I filed today's column as I always do, paying no mind to the potential for global destruction. When it comes to end-of-the-world predictions, we've been there, done that a hundred times over at this point.
We like to think that our civilization has evolved past the point of doomsday scenarios and mass hysteria. It's one thing for young women in Salem, Mass., to flip out near the end of the 17th century, but it's quite another for supposedly enlightened modern humans to get hysterical.
But then you see California preacher Harold Camping last year persuading thousands in his flock to donate their worldly possessions and quit their jobs before the world ended May 21. Turns out, it didn't. He blamed a mathematical error and revised the end date to Oct. 21.
Spoiler alert: The world didn't end then either.
You could excuse the maniacal ramblings of a 90-year-old preacher and his gullible sheep as an anomaly. But on the eve of the year 2000, I was working in Silicon Valley - back when the area was a love fest for technology startups - listening to seemingly rationale, perfectly coherent people talk about a computer glitch that would bring civilization to its knees.
In the build-up to Y2K, people believed the two-digit year would wreak havoc on our computer systems, and with everything run by computers, most of society would grind to a halt. Elevators would stop midclimb. Cars wouldn't start. The financial sector would implode. All around me, normal people were gripped in panic, rushing to ATMs to get cash and stocking up on food and water in case the local grocery store ceased to function.
Back then, no one recognized Y2K as just your run-of-the-mill pre-millennium hysteria, which is what it turned out to be. After all, we think of ourselves as far more advanced than our medieval predecessors. While they were robe-clad kooks hollering about the apocalypse, we were tech-savvy engineers worried about a legitimate software glitch - nothing irrational about that.
Until Y2K came and went without so much as a blip. Then we started to feel a bit more sympathy toward our misguided medieval ancestors.
For whatever reason, we just love the idea of a good apocalypse. There's always some poor soul pitching an end-times prediction, whether it's the end of the Mayan calendar or an ill-conceived biblical prophecy. And as I watched the scenes unfold from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where scores of innocent children were gunned down in cold blood, I wondered if maybe the crazies had it right.
The problem is that when you fixate on the end of the world, you lose sight of the present. If you think the world is ending, why try to make it a better place? Why share when you can hoard a stockpile? Why help a stranger when you can hole up for Armageddon?
Personally, I don't want to live in a world always waiting for its demise. At best, such hopeless thoughts lead to complacency. At worst, to a callous disregard for others.
In the end, it won't matter how or when we go. Just that we did our best while we were here.
Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach.