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Mayanist scholars say no end is really in sight, but many have plans for special date anyway

“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” — R.E.M.

If those who believe the ancient Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world are right, none of us have much time left to put our earthly affairs in order. The supposed date for all things to end is Dec. 21, 2012 … and that’s tomorrow.

This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. A variety of astronomical alignments and numerological formulas are said to point to Friday, though none have been accepted by mainstream scholars.

 “There is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012,” said Mayanist scholar Mark Van Stone. “The notion of a ‘Great Cycle’ coming to an end is completely a modern invention.”

Some members of the New Age movement interpret the date as a time of transition when Earth and its inhabitants will undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation as a new era for mankind begins.

Those suggesting that Dec. 21 marks the end of the world warn of the arrival of the next solar maximum; an interaction between Earth and the black hole at the center of the galaxy; or Earth’s collision with a mysterious planet called “Nibiru.”

Scholars have dismissed talk of such cataclysmic events. Mayanist scholars say that predictions of impending doom are not found in any of the extant classic Maya accounts. They say the idea that the Long Count calendar “ends” in 2012 misrepresents Maya history and culture.

Meanwhile, astronomers have rejected the various proposed doomsday scenarios as pseudoscience, saying they conflict with simple astronomical observations.

NASA has released a video to debunk the fears of people who believe the Mayans knew exactly what they were talking about. Even the Vatican has put in its two cents on the subject.

The Rev. Jose Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, wrote in last week’s Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that “it’s not even worth discussing” doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar.

Yes, Funes wrote, the universe is expanding and if some models are correct, will at one point “break away” — but not for billions of years. He said, however, that Christians profoundly believe that “death can never have the last word.”

Worldwide Reaction

Alas, neither the scoffing of scholars, logic of scientists or words of comfort from religious authorities have stopped people worldwide from preparing for the end.

In France, there’s a mountain where people are converging to await the arrival of aliens.

In Russia, where there’s been a run on essential supplies, the government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk. Its minister of emergency situations said last week that he had access to “methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth,” and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December. He acknowledged, however, that Russians were still vulnerable to “blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, trouble with transportation and food supply, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply.”

Similar assurances have been issued in recent days by Russia’s chief sanitary doctor, a top official of the Russian Orthodox Church, lawmakers from the State Duma and a former disc jockey from Siberia who recently placed first in the television show “Battle of the Psychics.” One official proposed prosecuting Russians who spread the rumor — beginning on Dec. 22.

According to a survey conducted for Reuters earlier this year, however, China ranks highest when it comes to end-of-the-world fears. Some 20 percent of those surveyed expect something to happen on Dec. 21.

Earlier this week, Chinese police detained more than 100 people for spreading rumors about the end of the world, according to state media. Many of those detained were said to be part of the fringe Christian group Almighty God, with police making arrests across eight provinces and regions, from the prosperous east coast to less developed western China.

Police seized leaflets, DVDs, books and other ‘apocalyptic materials’ from those arrested, with the items said to be based on the ancient Mayan civilization’s prophecy that the world would end this Friday, on December 21 2012.

And in the United States?

Sales of bomb-proof ‘survival bunkers’ have reportedly gone through the roof, particularly in California where one manufacturer says purchases have risen from one per month to one per day.

In recent years large numbers of Americans have begun stockpiling food and water for use in case of financial collapse, revolution or natural disaster.

End Time History

Doomsday prophets have predicted the end of time ever since the beginning of time. Religious prophecy has spawned doomsday concepts such as Armageddon (Christianity), Maitreya (Buddhism), the Kali Yuga  (Hinduism), Acharit Hayamim (Judaism) and Qiyamah (Islamic).

Natural events such as solar eclipses, comets, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic activity have all served as supposed precursors to the end of the world.

Fears of nuclear holocaust in the 50s and 60s brought many Americans face-to-face with the possibility of complete annihilation.

Even invaders traveling great distances through space to destroy all of humanity have spurred fears of mankind’s imminent demise.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, 1938, millions of radio listeners were shocked when supposed news alerts announced the arrival of Martians. They panicked when they learned of the Martians’ ferocious and seemingly unstoppable attack on Earth. Many ran out of their homes screaming while others packed up their cars and fled. A few even committed suicide.

What the radio listeners heard was Orson Welles’ adaptation of the well-known book, “War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells. Despite the broadcast being a complete fiction, many of the listeners believed what they heard on the radio was real.

In the atmosphere of tension and anxiety prior to World War II, they took it to be an actual news broadcast. Newspapers reported that panic ensued, with people across the Northeastern United States and Canada fleeing their homes. Some people called CBS, newspapers or the police in confusion over the realism of the news bulletins.

In Concrete, Wash., phone lines and electricity went out due to a short-circuit at the Superior Portland Cement Company’s substation. Residents were unable to call neighbors, family or friends to calm their fears. Reporters who heard of the coincidental blackout sent the story over the newswire, and soon Concrete was known worldwide.

Within one month, newspapers had published 12,500 articles about the broadcast and its impact. Adolf Hitler cited the panic, as Richard J. Hand writes, as “evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy.”

Hollywood Treatments

As you might expect, the end of time is a subject too juicy — and potentially profitable — for Hollywood movie makers to ignore. In fact, it has been the subject of many a successful movie through the years. Not only have there been more than a few remakes of Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” but lots of other films focusing on mankind’s destruction have been given the big screen treatment. Here’s a short list: “Independence Day,” “Deep Impact,” “Armageddon,” “The Day After,” “Outbreak,”  “The Core,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” “Night of the Comet,” and, last but not least — “2012.”

The film “2012” follows Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) as he attempts to bring his children, Noah (Liam James) and Lilly (Morgan Lily), ex-wife Kate Curtis (Amanda Peet) and her boyfriend, Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy) to refuge as they attempt to escape the destruction taking place all around them. The film includes references to Mayanism, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar and the portrayal of cataclysmic events unfolding in the year 2012. Although critics gave the film mixed reviews, “2012” had a worldwide theatrical revenue of approximately $770 million.

Prepare or Party?

While there are many who are taking the possibility of the world’s end tomorrow, there are others who aren’t taking the subject very seriously at all.

Facebookers responding this week to posts asking what they would do on Thursday if Friday truly were to be the end of the world. Many said they would pray, get their spiritual lives in order, make amends with others or spend time with their family. Some said they would read a favorite book, eat their favorite fattening foods or max out their credit cards.

Then there are the area bars, restaurants, wineries and clubs hosting doomsday parties for those who would rather meet their fate with a smile on their face.

Arcadia resident Mary Lou Fabry described one such event planned by she and her friends in light of the Mayan prophecy.

“We’re hosting an Armageddon Winter Solstice Contra Dance weekend. We’ll countdown at midnight, put paper bags on our heads, lie on the floor and see what happens. If no earthquakes, aliens, volcanoes, bombs or zombies wipe us out, we’ll go on dancing. If the poles shift and we drift out into space dancing, what better way to end?”

What better way, indeed?

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or

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