|Mayan Calendar cake by Con Amore, Brooklyn.|
The History Channel fueled the fire by airing a two-hour documentary attempting to link the prophesies of Nostradamus to the Mayan apocalypse. The ancient seer may have talked about a certain Hister when discussing World War II, but his quatrains are so generic, they've been used to explain everything from dirigibles to donuts. A 2009 movie titled "2012" is in regular rotation on the cable movie channel. It depicts, among tsunamis and firestorms, the destruction of Hollywood, which would have been considered biting the hand that feeds had the film not made so much money. The Left Behind flicks made a ton of cash too. According to one reputable poll, twenty-two percent of Americans believe the world will end in their lifetimes, and anytime you can get one out of five people to buy into pseudo-historical paranoid bullshit like that, it's worth a fortune. Occult books and New Age websites followed and soon a low-level panic gripped the world. NASA had to step in with an hour long YouTube video refuting the rumors, and you know you can believe everything you see on the internets. The recent Mayan time cycle that ended on the Winter Solstice is known as the "Long Count." As an amateur boxing historian, I don't think the Mayans were predicting the destruction of the Earth so much as predicting the winner of the Jack Dempsey- Gene Tunney Heavyweight Championship fight of 1927. (I just make 'em up, friends. I don't explain them).
Among the more insane information disseminated online were the rumors that an alien spaceship, which had been camouflaged by a mountain in the French Pyrenees until this moment, is the sole means of escape from the destruction, and a previously unknown planet named Nibiru will suddenly appear from behind the sun and crash into the Earth. Consequently, according to news reports, the French government has blocked further traffic from entering certain mountain villages during the Solstice so that residents might "live in peace." Neo-hippies and New Age freaks have flocked to the ancient Mayan homeland in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula for the date. Hotels close to the ruins at Chichen Itza, near Cancun, have been booked for a year in advance so spiritual tourists can gather near the pyramid for organized drum circles, and "ritual dancing." A group called Birth 2012 is sponsoring forty events around the world to launch a new global spiritual campaign. AP reporter Jack Chang quoted the movement's founder as saying, "We've activated this campaign for three days of love," making it sound vaguely like Woodstock. Either this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, or else we've gone through all this hocum before. I once climbed the pyramid at Chichen Itza, and though it was nice as pyramids go, with an ocean view, I felt no mystic crystal revelations. I have long grown tired of the phrase, "been there, done that," but I think it just may apply here.
The hysteria spread as far as China, where at least two men built arks to survive the chaos. No one is loading in animals two by two yet, but both men have gone to considerable expense. Chinese media reported that although both ark-builders feared a destructive flood, only one equipped his vessel to withstand a nuclear meltdown, which is probably wise in light of recent events in Japan. I would hate to be the guy who wakes up on Dec. 22 with the realization that he spent his life savings on a giant, homemade frigate that's sitting in the backyard. Anthropologists have translated one Mayan etching to say that on the feared Dec. 21st date, "Nine gods will descend from heaven to Earth." This would be a pretty good trick, except that it might be the 1919 Chicago White Sox coming to play another game in the Field of Dreams. The etching never said what the gods planned on doing once they arrived. But if they're going to launch a new era of kindness and generosity and they land in Mexico, they had better have papers if they plan to spread their message to this country. Willie Nelson sang about "Seven Spanish Angels," escorting souls to heaven. The Maya tossed in two more for good luck. I think it would be great if the descending gods only spoke Spanish.
The Mayan people made great contributions towards the advancement of knowledge. They were peerless as astronomers and among the first to use math and science in astronomical calculations. They discovered the concept of zero and created an advanced writing system. Mayan architecture and agriculture still influence today's world, as well as their discoveries in medicine. They did all this but failed to discover the wheel. And despite being advance metallurgists, their weaponry was no match for the Spanish Conquistadors who conquered them and sped the collapse of Mayan civilization in the ninth century. Only the ruins remain, but the Mayan calendar never mentioned that unfortunate occurrence. Perhaps the cosmic purpose for the existence of the race was to give to mankind the gift of chocolate. In any case, we don't need the Maya to forecast the destruction of civilization, we've created our own hell. The end of the world might be a step up. If you're still breathing, we're probably stuck with each other for a while, so we need to either discover a way to peacefully coexist or suffer the same fate as the Maya. I'd never root for Armageddon, but we got it coming.