I feel sorry for the Mayans. They develop a calendar, which takes some doing, and yet when their calculations apparently stop, a bunch of people think that the end of the world has been predicted. It’s very specific – the world either goes kablooey or undergoes radical transformation in December this year. It must be true, books have been written about it.
Of course, it’s actually cobblers. As with any end of the world scenario that sets a specific date it runs the risk of being overtaken by events. It reminds me of a Christian bookshop I frequented, which had a small section of books based around ‘interpreting’ biblical prophecies – apparently Saddam Hussain was going to be the antichrist, or the world would end once the EU reached 13 members. Now the memory of that shelf is kind of sad – books that had been overtaken by history, yes, but also books that had become a part of history, a history of getting the apocalypse wrong, and the socio-political-religious factors that underpinned these particular interpretations.
Anyway, a 2012 end date was the fashionable theory in pop eschatology, but guess what? An archeological expedition in the jungles of Guatemala has uncovered a mural created by the Mayans. And on this mural are calendar calculations stretching way beyond this year, thousands of years into the future.
What’s interesting is that the article refers to different mindsets when it comes to this sort of thing – the Mayans were more concerned with continuity, while our society, with its Doomsday 2012 books and constant headlines about ecological, social or economic collapse, seems more interested in catastrophe. Maybe that’s tied up with how we see history – the chief influences on the West talk about history as progress (intellectual, social) and/or history having a distinct end point (such as the Book of Revelation, and it’s interested to note that, of all the various interpretations of biblical prophecy, the one that has the greatest hold on us is the one that’s most catastrophic… But hey, at least all this has given me some ideas for my Bible blog…)
So the world’s not going to end in December, at least not because the Mayans predicted it. We can go on thinking about Christmas presents and New Year parties. It would be optimistic to say we can put the whole 2012 thing to rest, but we can at least give the Mayans a break…