Sunday, November 15, 2009

2012: Kiss Your Metaphorical Butt Goodbye

Probably my two favorite cable television channels are The History Channel and The Discovery Channel because they consistently provide intellectually-stimulating programming and still give me an excuse to watch Dirty Jobs and Gangland. Lately however, both channels have been hopelessly saturated with asinine specials concerning the Mayans, Nostradamus, and their chilling consensus concerning the year 2012. Namely, that the Earth with experience a mind-numbingly horrific series of catastrophes up to, and perhaps including, an extinction level event (not to be confused with the groundbreaking 1998 Busta Rhymes album of the same name.)

An entire host of books and movies are being produced on the assumption that the ancient Mayan culture created a calendar designating the end of the current age as December 21, 2012. The inference is that this date was given as a warning to humanity by the Mayan people and we would be foolish not to heed its message.

As always, the truth is somewhat more complicated. The Mayans did indeed have a calendar (in fact they had several) and one of them was created to specifically address a rather simple problem. The Mayan people would often erect stone pillars, called stelae, on which they would carve depictions of important people or events in order to commemorate them (just like statues in a park.) Being the highly intelligent people that they were, it was not long before they realized the plaque under the statues needed a fixed date on it so they could remember when the particular event occurred. The only problem was that they did not have a long term time designation to carve on it. This would be the modern equivalent of a gravestone that gave someone’s lifespan as March 21st – April 3rd, because without a year designation, we do not know which March 21st they were born or on which April 3rd they died.

The Mayans solved this dilemma by utilizing a Long Count Calendar, which created an “era” of time that started and ended at a specific moment in history (think in terms of B.C. & A.D.) Most scholars believe that the Mayan “era” began in 3114 B.C. and will end somewhere around December of 2011 or 2012 A.D. The date of December 21, 2012 became attached because it is the both the winter solstice (an annual event) and the date of Galactic Alignment (an event that occurs once every 26,000 years and brings the sun into the exact center of the Milky Way Galaxy.) We know that the Mayans were brilliant astronomers, and we know that their Long Count Calendar was slated to terminate in December of 2011 or 2012, so we find it acceptable to assume their intention was to bring their era to a close on the Galactic Alignment.

It is important to remember that there is no historical evidence that the Mayans expected a catastrophe at the end of their long count calendar any more that we expect one when we go to a New Year’s Party. It would probably have been marked with a celebration (and perhaps an alcohol-fueled awkward moment or too) but they certainly did not seem to foresee humanity’s impending doom.

Nostradamus was an astrologer and physician born on December 14, 1503 in Saint-Rémy, France. In 1547, after several years of successfully practicing medicine, he began composing “prophecies” embedded inside quatrains. A sampling:

1. The great man will be struck down in the day by a thunderbolt,
An evil deed foretold by the bearer of a petition.
According to the prediction, another falls at night time.
Conflict at Reims, London and a pestilence in Tuscany.

2. In winter’s darkness betrayal finds a home,

Mourning will be heard throughout the great city,

From the four pieces must lessen one,

Strongholds to bring sickness from Corfrino .

3. Earthshaking fire from the center of the Earth
Will cause tremors around the New City.
Two great rocks will war for a long time,
Then Arethusa will redden a new river.

The first example is believed to be Nostradamus’s foretelling of the JFK assassination (struck down in the day by a thunderbolt) and Bobby Kennedy’s nighttime assassination five years later (falls at night time.)

The second example is believed to be a prediction of John Lennon’s December assassination (winter’s darkness) outside the Dakota in New York City. The “four” is often associated with the four bullets that hit Lennon or the four members of The Beatles.

The third example is presented as a vision of the September 11 attacks on New York (New City.) The two great rocks are the twin towers, and they did indeed cause tremors when they fell. The two “warring” great rocks could also represent America and the Middle East.

As you can see, what the French seer lacked in accuracy, he easily compensated for with ambiguity. The quatrains are vague, timeless, and generally speak to themes of human suffering and destruction; which allows the writings to be adapted to each new disaster as it occurs. Case in point; while the first and third quatrains are actual Nostradamus prophecies, the second one I wrote as an example in about ten minutes. As far as foreseeing Armageddon in 2012 is concerned, the Frenchman wrote prophecies about events that were to occur well into the 38th century so it seems unlikely that he was under the impression our world would end in 2012.

That is not to say that there will not be warning signs that the end is near. After careful research, I have compiled several:

· A member of the Kardashian family is elected to public office

· Arkansas completes all interstate road construction

· A prescription drug is produced whose side effects do not include nausea

· Andy Rooney purchases and utilizes an electric eyebrow trimmer

· Members of the United State Congress take voluntary salary reductions

· It is after 8:30 PM on a weekday and the McDonald’s ice cream machine is not “broken”

· Jessica Simpson wins an Oscar for her work in a Civil War-era musical directed by Michael Bay

· Switchblade combs stop being cool

· A year passes without someone inventing a new device to work your abs

· GM produces a sport utility vehicle uglier than the Pontiac Aztec

So do not fret my fellow homosapiens, because the only thing in danger of extinction in the year 2012 is our own common sense. …

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