It’s 2012 and if you take to heart what conspiracy theorists, doomsayers, and religious groups are saying, the world is going to end on December 21 of this year. We need to get to work uncovering some of those Cold War bomb shelters, but we may have to do some remodeling; we’re going to need to install electricity so we can charge our iPhones and watch satellite while we’re down there. But really, what’s this whole apocalyptic/end of the world/second coming of Christ business about?
The Mayans are famous for their mathematical and astrological accomplishments, but perhaps what they are most famous for is their complex and precise calendar system. This system was designed by the Mayans not only to keep track of time, but to predict future astronomical events. The Mayans made several calendars, but the Long Count calendar was different from the rest in that it was longer than 52 years, so it was capable of predicting more recent astronomical events accurately. Due to its accuracy, the mystery of why the Long Count calendar ends has been the source for aforementioned groups’ claims of an impending, Mayan-predicted, world-changing event. The theories behind the Mayan calendar stem from the fact that the Long Count calendar ends on December 21, 2012; many took this to mean that this was the Mayans’ prediction of the end of the world.
In reality, the Mayans never made an end-of-the-world prediction; nowhere in their texts is it said that December 21, 2012 will be the day the world ends. Generally speaking, we all believe that time is linear. When event A happens, it’s done with and we move on to experience event B, never returning to event A again. The Mayans, on the other hand, believed that time was cyclical. Put very simply, they believed that events A through Z would take place and that once the final event took place, e.g. event Z, that time would start over again and humans would experience events A through Z again, starting with event A. Because the Mayans believed that time was cyclical, the ending of the Long Count calendar did not mean that the world was ending to them; what it meant was that that time had met the beginning of the cycle again.
Really what happened is that people have taken a miniscule detail, i.e. that the Long Calendar ends, and put words into the Mayans’ mouths. People, including an ABC news article, all claim that the Mayans predicted an event where “a solar shift, a Venus transit and violent earthquakes” take place. However a scholarly search results in no evidence that the Mayans ever made such an ambiguous prediction of an event like that, much less a specific date for the end of the world.
So the question is, when December 21st comes around, what will you do? Will you be hiding in your bomb shelter with your canned meat, iPad, and your personal injury attorney’s number on speed dial? Or will you be doing something truly scary: Braving the treacherous, last-minute holiday crowds at your local mall?
Amber Paley is a guest post and article writer bringing to us what the Mayan calendar and end-of-the-world hoopla is all about. As a writer, Amber spends much of her professional life writing about nursing home abuse.