Friday, December 21, 2012

It's The End of the World ...Again

I'm writing this at a little after midnight, and December 21, 2012 is just getting under way.  Of course, December 21 started many hours ago on the other side of the earth, but that's beside the point.  Despite what many believe the ancient Mayans predicted, I have a feeling that December 21, 2012 will be a lot like December 20, 2012--and December 22, 2012 for that matter.  True, there are still twenty-four hours to go before I can safely say that nothing bad or "earth-shattering" happened on this date, but I feel pretty comfortable believing that the world is not going to end today.

The End of the World, Doomsday, The Apocalypse, Judgment Day, Armageddon and many other ideas about  how and when our planet will end have been predicted for centuries.  It seems like every couple of years we are presented with a new date for the end of the world.  Heck, it was only about a year-and-a-half ago that we were hearing all about Judgment Day and The Rapture (which passed very quietly).  Sometimes these dates are based on translations of writings/predictions from centuries ago.  Sometimes they come from some mystical cult leader who will somehow manage to convince a dedicated following that he/she knows what they are talking about.  With any luck these predictions will simply pass, the leader will be discredited and those poor souls under the cult's spell can try to get back to their lives.  Unfortunately, in some instances the leader's personality and magnetism are so strong that his/her followers might be led to believe that they must kill themselves to satisfy some need of the Gods or aliens or whatever crazy story the leader dreams up.

Predictions about the end of the world can come from biblical passages, from oracles and prognosticators of the future (like Nostradamus), from self-styled messengers of God (see cult leaders above) or many other sources.  While most of these predictions seem mystical and religious in nature there was also a very real threat of global destruction which for decades had the world teetering on the brink of disaster.  This was the threat of atomic and/or nuclear disaster known as the Cold War.  It's probably hard for someone growing up today to imagine how real this threat felt at the time.  From the late 1940s right up until 1989 there was a general sense of potential doom as the United States and Russia held a dangerous stalemate between them.  One bad decision or one small mishap or miscommunication could have ushered in a man-made disaster the likes of which had never been seen.  Over the years the two main combatants of the Cold War were joined by other countries which managed to develop their own nuclear arsenal.

Even though the Cold War is now over, there is still a very real possibility of all-out nuclear war.  While stockpiles of weapons have been lessened, I'm sure there are still plenty of them left to devastate large swaths of the planet if they were to be detonated.  And unstable governments like North Korea and Iran are still trying to gain access to the not-so-exclusive-anymore club of countries that possess those weapons.  Whether the end comes by way of nuclear weapons, a meteor or asteroid (or rogue planet), natural disaster, biblical prophesies come true, some form of Super Flu, global warming, alien invasion or even the Zombie Apocalypse, there are many possibilities to continue to worry about if one so chooses.  But at least we can say that, despite what Hollywood might have us believe (see movies like "2012" and "2012: Doomsday"), the earth should live to see the dawn of 2013 and perhaps beyond.

I'm no expert on this topic, but from what I've been reading it seems that the Mayan calendar responsible for all this December 21, 2012 stuff simply ends on that date, only to start over with a whole new cycle.  I suppose it's pretty boring to say that you just go back to the beginning to start that new cycle and it's more "interesting" to say that the cycle ends with death and destruction before a new cycle can begin ("re-cycle"?).

For a look at the Mayan civilization and its "predictions"--from a 1970s point of view--here is an episode from the classic TV series "In Search of..." from 1977 titled "Mayan Mysteries".

In Search of...  Mayan Mysteries

Interestingly, this episode says that the ancient Mayan calendar we hear so much about ends on December 24, 2011 instead of December 21, 2012.  I believe that this discrepancy is due to the fact that the Mayans didn't have leap years.  Thirty-five years after this episode we have finally reached the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Hopefully December 21, 2012 will end the same way as thousands and thousands of days have ended before it and we will live to see December 22, 2012.  Then perhaps we can finally feel safe again.  ...But, for how long?


  1. Wish I was in Mexico for it there is a set of ruins outside of Merida where on solstice the sun shines through a Mayan calendar. Plus a great place to go swimming in the cenote!

  2. Very enjoyable blog you have. Lots of well thought out and funny stuff. I am now a follower.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words and the follow! I'm hoping to get back to writing a bit more regularly.