End of the world?

Making sense of the Mayan prophecy

 By Megan Garrison

So today is Dec. 12, 2012. And in precisely 9 days the end of the world is supposed to occur on Dec. 21, 2012 all because of a prediction made by the Mayans. A prediction that honestly has no real scientific merit other than some loosely interpreted Mayan hieroglyphics. So, for argument’s sake, let’s look at the theory.

Here’s the skinny about the Mayan “prophecy of the doomsday”: the Mayan calendar 2012 date actually marks the end of the “Long Count.” This is a cycle of 5,126 years. If you didn’t know – which I assume is highly plausible, because who actually studies this? – Mayans counted time in ba’k’tuns. These units of time add up to about 394 years. Throwing thirteen of these ba’k’tuns together equals a freakishly long Long Count. The ending day of Dec. 21, 2012 is the final count of a Long Count that began in 3,114 BCE. The only reason this particular end of this particular Long Count was important to the ancient Mayan civilization was because of its connection to astronomical events. And I mean astronomical in a simple stars and planets sense.

Dec. 21, 2012 is the date of the Winter Solstice. To the Mayans, this combination of events signified the Sacred Tree. Now this is where archeologists get a little shaky on facts. Through the study of hieroglyphics, the general anthropological society has agreed that there is no doomsday prophecy, period. However, there is a reference of a Mayan god returning to Earth on this day. I don’t know about you, but I have seen some depictions of their god and I would be content if he stayed in the heavens.

As I sit here contemplating the end of the world, I can’t help but wonder about all those people in the past that predicted the end of the world only to have their prophecies rejected by the universe itself. I can’t imagine what you would feel after a blow like that. Would you be happy because it turns out you’re still alive and so is everything and everyone you love? Or would you be disappointed because you were wrong? No one likes to be proven wrong, especially by being smacked in the face by the universe.

I mean how could we forget the general mayhem spawned by Y2K? So the universe, as defined by humans, was switching from 1900s to 2000s. People thought technology would cease to exist as we knew it. This was because programmers had not yet figured out how to build computers that would turn over the year. General mayhem would ensue from society without this technology. Obviously, this was absurd really because society had survived centuries without technology, however they also didn’t have atomic bombs that would need technology built to stabilize them at all times. And then we had scares about June 6, 2006 (6/6/6) and all the Christian prophecies, which personally confuse me because in the Bible it even says that no one knows the date and time of the end of the world. Yet, those strange men always seem to pop up from the fringes screaming chapters from Revelations.

Science has never backed up an end of the world theory. They come and go, spurred by the hype of media and sensationalism of society. And then they fade away into off-handed jokes or complete non-existence. So can we really bet all our chips on the idea the Dec. 21, 2012 is the end of the world because some ancient civilization that couldn’t even predict their own demise carved some crude calendar? The answer is yes, we apparently can. Even though I argue against the end you won’t see me anywhere else but with family and friends on Dec. 21, hoping that we all die quick and painlessly. What can I say? I’m a hypocrite and a tad gullible. Happy Holidays and, hopefully, a New Year!

Reach DCP freelance writer Megan Garrison at MeganGarrison@daytoncitypaper.com


Megan Garrison grew up in the small town of Lampasas, Texas, spending her time immersed in Ernest Hemingway novels and dreaming of being a journalist one day. Now she attends the University of Dayton and is hard at work studying to be a war-time correspondent. Though she is very goal oriented and works hard to achieve her dreams she also loves to have a little fun. She DJs her own radio show on Flyer Radio and makes it a point to attend great movies and local concerts. But her greatest love will always be books.

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