Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the "Mayan Apocalypse"

I wasn’t going to say anything about the so-called “Mayan Apocalypse,” but the general misunderstanding has me frustrated enough to write about it now.

Briefly: ONE OF the calendar systems of SOME OF the Mesoamerican peoples is known as the Long Count and counts the days since the end of the last Great Cycle. A Great Cycle is comprised of 13 bak’tuns, or 1,872,000 days. The first day of the present Great Cycle corresponds to 13 August 3114 BC in the Gregorian calendar. The last day of the present Great Cycle corresponds to 21 December 2012. The Long Count system was used to understand the world in greater increments than the usual 52-year cyclical calendar. Never did any culture in Mesoamerica think that the world could only span 13 bak’tuns. Especially since their historical records cover multiple Great Cycles, obviously, since they only last for a few thousand years if the present one started in 3114 BC. In short, no living Mayan person today believes the world will cease to exist after this Friday.

They do, however, believe the world will end on Friday when the Great Cycle ends. Just like they believe the world ends EVERY SINGLE NIGHT when the sun dips below the horizon. How do they, as a people, cope with this belief system? Simply. They regularly perform rebirthing ceremonies which bring the sun back up the next morning, which start the 52 year calendar over again, and, yes, which start the 1,872,000 day long Great Cycle over again. So for the real Mayan people living in the world today yes, the world is going to end when this Great Cycle does on Friday, but don’t worry, because they’ll rebirth it.

So before buying out all the candles in the stores and purchasing assault rifles (to, what, protect yourself when the world explodes?) take a minute or two to think about someone other than yourself and try to understand a different culture and way of life; especially if you are basing your thoughts about the end of the world on misinformation regarding their belief system. I suggest the book The Maya by Michael D. Coe, published by Thames & Hudson. Obviously it’s just a few extremists who are really buying assault rifles in preparation for the destruction of the earth and not the majority, because otherwise what was the point of gong to see An Unexpected Journey if I can’t see the other two movies, and how could the world end when The Great Gatsby is finally going to be released in 2013? In that case, the real hype about the “Mayan Apocalypse” is nothing more than yet another media exploitation of another culture’s belief system by people who won’t take the time to understand it. And, to me, that is even more upsetting than thinking the world is really going to cease to exist.