Thursday, December 06, 2012

The End of the World (Again)

Sometime this afternoon, I overheard several co-workers talking about the end of the world in connection to the supposed ending of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. Generally speaking, I try to avoid eavesdropping into the conversations of others, but this topic compelled me to say something. I interrupted and said quite simply, "The world is not going to end, at least not any time soon."  

Of course, I had to offer some explanation. 

During our trip to Guatemala and Honduras last August, we had the opportunity to speak with several Mayan people. For my part, I had no interest in talking about the end of the Mayan calendar, but oddly enough, many of the people we met had questions for me. In particular, one Mayan woman asked me point blank, "Why do the gringos (North Americans) say that the world will end this year? That's not part of our culture." I had no answer, except to say that people have misinterpreted their culture out of ignorance, or worse, some people may have misrepresented the Mayan culture for their own gain. I suppose there's still money to be made by selling books, tours, and paraphernalia related to the end times. 

In any case, everyone we met was perplexed by the North American fascination with the false assumption that the world will end this upcoming December 21. 

However, these conversations offered some insight to the true nature of Mayan time-keeping. For example, I learned that a baktun is a Mayan unit of time that contains 144,000 days, or slightly less than 400 years. We are currently approaching the end of the 13th baktun. Much of the hype is derived from the fact that the current baktun will end on December 21 of this year. Supposedly, the calendar ends on that date, but in reality, the 14th baktun will begin on December 22, much like the new year, or the turning of a new century. The Mayan calendar will continue as it has for thousands of years. 

We survived Y2K, the supposed rapture predicted by Harold Camping, and a host of other end time predictions that have all failed. Likewise, we will survive the end of the 13th baktun. 

By the way, these pictures were taken at Ruinas Copan, Honduras. 


Larry Cebula said...

I thought the release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter marked the end of the world, but it turned out I was wrong.

I think that the "Mayan End of the World" thing is more of an internet meme than an actual belief, something people like to make jokes about. Similar to the Zombie Apocalypse.

Barry Moses (Sulustu) said...

Yes, most people do make jokes about the end of the world, but I have met more than a handful of people who do seem to really worry about the "end" of the Mayan calendar.

Barry Moses (Sulustu) said...

As strange as it may sound, several people have actually called me and asked about the end of the world. They were sincerely concerned about the Mayan thing. My friends in Guatemala were receiving the same kinds of inquiries.


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