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End of the world

While many bloggers, New Age followers and perhaps those who attended the Harmonic Convergence event back in the 1980s have attached significance to the Mayan calendar ending on Dec. 21, 2012, odds are good the apocalypse won't happen this Friday.

Not even the Maya themselves believed this date would be cataclysmic. It is merely the completion of the 12th b'ak'tun -- a milestone but certainly not the end of the world. A b'ak'tun roughly is equivalent to 144,000 days, and is the longest unit of measurement used on this particular calendar.

The Maya civilization existed from 1800 B.C. to about 900 A.D., centered in what is modern-day Mexico and Central America. While reasons for the culture's decline are unknown, Mayas gave dates to many of their prophecies -- many of which come much later than the current year.

But that hasn't stopped many from believing something is going to happen come Friday. It probably didn't help that the film "2012" was a well-attended disaster movie when it came out three years ago.

A recent poll indicated 10 percent of Americans had some sort of anxiety about Dec. 21, 2012. Apparently enough people in Russia believed something would happen that the Minister of Emergency Situations announced the world was not going to end.

Ancient sites in Mexico are braced for an unusually high number of tourists. Authorities in France are not letting UFO watchers access to Bugarach peak where many doomsdayers believe some sort of spacecraft will pick them up. Mt. Rtanj in Serbia, which looks like a pyramid, has attracted hundreds of people who believe the physical structure has a magnetic force field that will protect them. American and Chinese survivalists have stocked up on candles and shelters in hopes of forestalling this day of doom. At least two men in China have constructed arks in case of floods.

"I think this tells us more about ourselves, particularly in the Western world, than it does about the ancient Maya," said Geoffrey Braswell, an associate professor of anthropology and leading Maya scholar at the University of California, San Diego.

On the flip side, many individuals who are recognizing Dec. 21 in any fashion are doing so with parties. We assume they're doing so with the belief they'll wake up Saturday morning and the weekend will continue.

That is what we're prepared for. We hope you are as well. All the rest is but a distraction, an opportunity for clever hucksters to make a profit on people's fear.

If it turns out we're wrong, it's certainly been a pleasure serving you.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net