11 Nov 2009

the end of the world . . . as we know it(?)

The latest Hollywood $260-million-dollar-apocalyptic blockbuster - "2012" - is about to hit theaters across the world this Friday, November 13.

This movie is primarily based on the theory that since the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on December 20, 2012, this signals the destruction of life as we know it. The end of the world!

Does December 20, 2012 mark the end of the world, or 'the end of the world as we know it'(?)

According to the film's researchers and promoters:
"The title refers to the end-date of the current (13th) b'ak'tun of the Long Count calendar, used by the Mayan Meso-American civilization. In their creation myth, we live in the fourth "attempt" at creating the world, while the third attempt was dismissed as a failure after its own 13th b'ak'tun. Though Mayan documents contain no such information, popular culture and certain religions predict an apocalyptic event at this date. It is popularly misunderstood that the calendar "ends" on this date, however the Long Count calendar can express dates from approximately 3000BC (their date for the creation of the current world) to approximately 40 octillion years in the future. It is almost impossible to express this date in a mortally comprehensible fashion.
The doomsday theory has sprung from a Western idea, not a Mayan. Mayans insist that the world will not end in 2012. The Mayans had a talent for astronomy, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years. Once every 25,800 years, the sun lines up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy on a winter solstice, the sun's lowest point in the horizon. In 2012 that will happen on December 21; which happens to be the same day the Mayan calender expires, since the calendar is aligned to natural and astronomical cycles.
In addition to the Mayan calendar, the modern doomsday myth is bolstered several ostensibly scientific reasons for a disaster. Examples include a pole shift, the 'return' of Planet X or the Sun's sinister counterpart Nemesis, a galactic, planetary, or other celestial alignment, global warming, global cooling, a massive solar flare, a new ice age, and so on. None of these have any basis in respected science. For example, the 'galactic alignment' between the sun, Earth, and galactic center happens every December. The best alignment was reached in the 1990s and was accompanied by its own set of doomsday theories. Alignments since then have been increasingly poor."

The word ‘apocalypse’ has been made almost synonymous with Doomsday, which is, strictly speaking, incorrect. It derives from a Greek word meaning to ‘reveal’ or ‘disclose’ and by extension, it simply means a prophesy or vision of the future, not necessarily an ominous one.

It is a fact that the ancient Maya and Aztec astrologers studied the mysterious influence of the rhythms of the sky on earthly life. At the core of Mesoamerican astrology is the notion that time periods have meaning.

The most important time cycles in ancient Mayan and Aztec astrology are those of the day. Days are looked at intervals of 9, 13 and 20 days. Each day is then part of several other cycles, so no two days are exactly the same, as represented by interconnected cogs. One of the most important time periods, is the 'katun', followed by the 'baktun'. Thirteen baktuns form a 'creation cycle'.

The Popol Vuh, a book compiling details of the K'iche' Maya creation accounts, notes that we are living in the fourth world. According to the Popol Vuh, the gods failed with the first three creations and so put in motion the fourth world seeded by humans.

This Long Count cycle began on August 11 of 3,114BC and ends after completion of the cycle of 5,125 years. However, the calendar is perpetual, meaning: there is no end to it. Just like the Gregorian calendar where the same cycle of 24 hour days, 7 day weeks and 12 month years, repeats after completing 365 days, ad infinitum. Neither is there a known traditional Mayan prophecy for the year 2012.

However, the end of each Long Count calendar cycle appears to predict a turning point in human history for the Mayans.

In the Maya Long Count, the forth cycle will end on December 20, 2012, followed by the start of the new cycle, fourteenth b'ak'tun -, on December 21, 2012.

What stands out is that a number of cycle centers confluence around December 2012. Including alignment of our Winter Solstice Sun with the center of the Milky Way galaxy, called the Cygnus Rift (although the actual mid point of the 100-or-so year Cygnus Rift occurs in 2030).

This Galactic Center is located between Sagittarius and Scorpio, and was thought of by the ancient Maya as the Creation Place in the Sky, the Womb of the Great Mother. This alignment of the solstice sun with Galactic Center occurs approximately once every 12,700 years.

The last time this happened was when the sphinx at Gizah was eroded by flood water. It seems something happens. Apparently the Earth responds to the heavenly bodies of the bigger cycles like the waters on the Earth's surface and within the body respond to the moon's cycles.

For the scientific 'facts', I defer to the experts at NASA who recently announced: "Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012." NASA offers this article as a scientific reality check.

My question is, "How big a context are today's scientist able to embrace?"

When considered in isolation or - out of context - the facts around December 2012 seem insignificant. As signified by various prophecies, this year is important to many cultures around the world. But that is just one piece of the puzzle.

Many ancient prophecies note 2012 as a time of change. Certainly, we live in a time of crisis and each crisis is a herald of change, at the very least an opportunity for change.


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