December 21, 2012: A Very Mayan X-Mas
"When I hear modern people complain of being lonely then I know what has happened. They have lost the cosmos." - D.H. Lawrence (Apocalypse)
Hey everybody, let's talk about the apocalypse! I know, I know, it's all over the place and one more blogger talking about it will probably push it into "played-out" territory, but I'm playing through Assassin's Creed III right now and feel extra theoretical in a conspiriatorial manner.
There are tons of theories floating around the interwebs about how the world is going to end in little over a month, and I would love to take the time to go over some of my favorites.
Do you mind? No, of course you don't mind, you're a figment of my imagination.
It goes without saying that the Mayan calendar plays a large role in the mythos that is the end of the world. As it stands now, the theory states that the Mayans "predicted" the end of the world as of December 21st, 2012. Well, this isn't exactly true, their (recorded) linear way of defining time just ran up.
You see, the Mayans incorporated "0" into their measurement of time and had a much larger scope of said time than we do. December 21st, 2012 marks the end of the thirteenth b'ak'tun of the fourth era. A b'ak'tun is equivalent to 144,000 days by our count. Thirteen of these b'ak'tun make a "great cycle" or era. The Mayans applied this to their spirituality in a rather unique way. They believed that the first three eras (or "great cycles") were a type of trial and error for their gods. The first three iterations of the Earth weren't fit for humanity and the fourth obviously was. What makes this belief so unique is that it takes into consideration extinction events that wiped the proverbial slate clean.
This type of structured thought doesn't really lend itself to apocalyptic musings, more a structured understanding of the truest purpose of time...order. This leads me to believe that there was much less an idea of an apocalypse and more just an extended measure of time. We don't believe that every new year brings the end of the world do we? No, we actually view it with a sense of hope, making resolutions on how to improve our lives.
I can see how such a massive view of time ending with zero would seem to limit our already limited view though. I mean, we are talking about a span of 5,128 years. This is much more time than most of us willingly choose to acknowledge as human development. So, grasping at it as a viable unit of measurement is difficult, to say the least.
The question of why they stopped counting at the fourth era is often raised by the paranoid skeptics of our world, and I see the answer as relatively simple. When we think of our lives, and the lives of future generations, one of the most basic tenets we believe will hold true is our measurement of time. Very few people question how our youth will measure time because we are confident our current way of doing it is solid. Why would the Mayans be any different?
The thirteenth b'ak'tun being the end of the Mayan "great cycle" caught me as being rather significant in our current thought process. The number 13 is significant in many spiritual belief systems and lends itself well to an "apocalypse."
- Thirteen is representative of a cleansing or purification
- Thirteen symbolizes the death of the aesthetic nature and a rebirth of the spirit...essentially transcendence
- The thirteenth chapter of Revelation is reserved for the Antichrist and the Beast
- Friday the 13th supposedly represents the day in which Jesus died upon the cross, and (based upon a lunar calendar) the day in which Adam and Eve were cast from Eden.
Of course, there is no proof for any of this, but damn if speculation isn't a blast.
Blinded by Science
Some of my favorite theories come in the form of "supposed" scientific fact. One of these states that there will be a massive geo-magnetic reversal of the Earth's polarity, essentially changing the spin direction of the planet and the pole positions. When this change happens, a massive wave of energy will be released, wiping all life from the planet.
This theory is based on the fact that we are nearing Solar Maximum, the end point (and most "vibrant") of an 11 year cycle of our solar system's star activity cycle. Unfortunately for these theorists, geo-magnetic reversal and solar activity have very little to do with each other.
In a close second is the planet Nibiro (Planet X) theory, which states that there is currently a planet barreling toward Earth and it will impact on December 21st, 2012. This theory didn't play out too well in 2003, nor will it 2012. Kudos for imagination though.
Last, but certainly not least...alien invasion! Actually, this one is the more plausible of the three.
A Simple Truth
The way I see it, there are three main influences at work here. The first deals with our incessant need to monetize all things. Everyone is banking off the end of the world scenario, and has been for a while now. Governments (one small town in Mexico has set up a massive clock in their town square to drive up tourism), spiritual establishments (nothing fills the coffers like impending retribution), retail outlets (duh, zombies), and old dudes with enough spunk to charm the money out of gullible pockets...all are cashing in. What happens when people cash in? They do all they can to milk it dry. What better way to bring it to an almighty pay day then by setting a date?
Second, who doesn't love a conspiracy theory? One of the major reasons I enjoy reading historical text deals with making outlandish ties to modern times. Some shadowy organization has been dueling it out with another shadowy organization for millenia, and that is how all major events of human development come to pass? Of course I'm down with that!
An explanation like that is what we want because the truth is so damn dark. We fought and clawed to be where we are today. We stepped over fallen brethren to achieve realities once thought impossible. We slaughtered billions in the name of freedom only to find the true definition difficult to swallow. The glorious revolutions extolled on playgrounds pale in comparison to the sacrifice required for survival.
Humanities history is dark, but beautifully so. Why shouldn't we associate all the greatest heroic attributes to these events? In order that they be remembered for their intent and never their practice.
Lastly...curiosity, the most beautiful of all human attributes. We hunger for the answers to our questions, at least we used to. It seems today there is a distinct lack of appetite for those "larger than life" ideas. Not dead though! No, there are plenty who still yearn for the answers to the questions that have plagued us since we first began to split and bond our atomic structures.
So, to those who will be out staring at the stars on December 21st, 2012...I applaud you. You may be misguided sheep with far too many lost shepherds, but your intent is pure. For that, I say thank you. Thank you for the hope that there are still those able enough to broaden their scope.
1.) Marcus, Joyce (1976). "The Origins of Mesoamerican Writing". Annual Review of Anthropology 5: 25–67.
2.) Schele, Linda; Freidel, David (1990). A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya (pbk reprint ed.). New York: