The End of the World is at Hand–Or Not!

Some people are actually panicking about tomorrow December 21, 2012. For years many have heard rumors that this is the end of the world.

Even Communist China has gotten in on the act. This week over 100 people were arrested because they dared to express their Christian religious belief that the world was coming to an end. So much for a new era of tolerance in China. No one does religious suppression better than the Communist Chinese. Just ask any Buddhist in Tibet.

Despite the uproar, rumors about the end of the world are nothing new and have been going of for centuries.

The Hindus believe that the end of the world is merely part of the eternal cycle of creation, sustenance and death/destruction. When one world ends another will be created in its place. This may be why in the east few people are concerned about the end of time since they believe it is only part of the cycle of eternity.

The Roman Emperor Caligula was a mentally unbalanced 24 year old with the power of life and death over everyone in the Roman Empire. He once remarked during the beheading of one of his alleged enemies, “I wish all Rome had just one neck!” Needless to say for many in the Empire, the end of the world for them depended on what type of mood Caligula was in that day.

Norse mythology actually has an end of the world “myth.” In that scenario the evil Frost Giants escape from their frozen prison to attack Valhalla, the very home of the Norse gods themselves. Despite a valiant battle the world ends and the gods go down fighting. Sounds like so many super hero movies that have come out in recent years. Very Viking, but so far no sightings of Frost Giants have been reported. “Phew!”

The Vatican claimed the world would end in the year 1000 A.D. Just last week Pope Benedict XVI started tweeting on twitter, so it looks like the Vatican was wrong a thousand years ago—go figure!

Puritans were in love with the end of the world. They were also asked to leave England so they could come to the New World to have the freedom practice their religious fanaticism without interference from the British Crown.

In the 1640’s many Puritans confessed and openly proclaimed they were ready for God to come down from Heaven and judge them. Of course, they were going to be judged ready for Heaven and everyone else was going to Hell.

Ironically, it is the New World where this modern obsession with the pop culture apocalypse arises.

And no–it wasn’t Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” broadcast that led many in the 1930s to believe an invasion from the planet Mars was the end of the world. It was actually the Mayans–whom the Puritans would have dismissed as heathen pagans.

Unknowingly, the Mayans created a framework for people who would come centuries after their demise would panic about an end to all things. However, that assumes that the people generating this Pop Culture Apocalypse actually know what they’re talking about.

The Mayan calendar is based on what archaeologists call  “ The Long Count.” The Long Count began during the creation episode in Mayan mythology. The first day of The Long Count is what the Mayans referred to as Day Zero and that was August 11, 3114 B.C.

The Mayan system of time keeping was solar based which is why the winter solstice (December 21 in most cases) is the starting point. According to Mayan history expert Professor Russell Colgate, “Though the Maya believed that successive creations were cyclic, there is no clear evidence of what they thought would happen on December 21, 2010.”

So, the date the Mayan calendar returns to Day Zero is when its cycle has passed and that will be December 21 (or possibly 22) of 2012. Then a new cycle of Mayan time keeping begins and it will be another 5,000 plus years before the Zero Day is reached again. Think of it this way, is it the end of your car when the odometer rolls over?

Basically the Mayan culture was tied to agriculture, thus the emphasis on the Winter Solstice as a starting point to gauge when to plant crops.  They were also gifted with superb mathematicians and astronomers who created a very elaborate system of tracking time. But as far as claiming the world was coming to the end—the Mayans weren’t really interested in that, much less did they foretell its coming.

And while delving into pop culture, it is hard not to quote Cheech and Chong, “The world’s going to end but I don’t even care–so long as I get to keep my limo and my orange hair!”

See you after the Apocalypse.

 

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One Response to The End of the World is at Hand–Or Not!

  1. Cynthia St. Cyr says:

    Very insightful! Thank you for explaining the basis of so much hysteria.

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