I’m not counting down the days until the world ends, according to the Mayan calendar. For one thing, I don’t follow the Mayan calendar, having long ago decided to go with the more modern version. I’m even trying to learning to use BCE and ACE (before and after the Common Era, respectively) although it doesn’t yet feel natural.
We grow; we change.
Any self-respecting, ego-centric society is going to assume the sunrises and sets on its customs, culture and deities. Naturally, the Mayans might have believed the world would end when they ran out of space to continue their calendar–a running gag in the reliably funny Triangle Club revue. I don’t know why anyone else would believe an extinct civilization might have inside information concerning our end-date, but believers abound.
The go-to place for all things end of days appears to be December212012.com. This nifty site provides links to various prophecies as well as news articles and a list of celebrities who believe (Mel Gibson? No surprise. Woody Harrelson? I can believe it. But Sting?) For practical advice, see the “shocking” video about 37 things we should be hording now. I won’t spoil it by giving away the ending.
In Russia, as The New York Times noted, plenty of people believe the world will end on December 21st and have taken to panic buying. Russia is home to some deep-seated mystical thinking. Russians are also known for their mordant sense of humor and their entrepreneurial spirit, which may explain why one smart businessman has sold several thousand gag emergency kits, a cleverly packaged $29 parcel including sprats (like a sardine but more oily), vodka, buckwheat, matches, candles, a string and a piece of soap. Za vashe zdorovie!*
You don’t have to adhere to the end of the world scenario to notice the dramatic increase in…er…drama as the year draws to a close. Lindsay Lohan has of course managed to get in trouble, perhaps in order to deflect criticism of her turn as Elizabeth Taylor. Not that anyone seemed to notice her made-for-TV biopic anyway: I swear I read a review describing her performance as “adequate”. Most of the attention she gets these days focuses on her so-called private life. We do love us our train wrecks. What I’d love is to declare a moratorium on all things Lindsay Lohan. It’s not fun to watch a 26-year-old who’s beginning to look as if she’s spent at least four decades on the planet spin out of control. She gets help; she doesn’t get help. Who needs that drama?
What about John McAfee, the outré, ubër-paranoid billionaire designer of anti-virus software that bears his name? A fast-living man with a penchant for both privacy and self-promotion, he’d been holed up in Belize, in a beachfront compound he protected with dogs and guns while he entertained a series of young women. Since being identified as a person of interest in the murder of a neighbor, McAfee has been hiding from authorities while providing his fans and followers with updates on podcasts, websites and a Facebook page. Sunday’s New York Times story filled in much of the history but now has given way to another dramatic twist: latest reports are that McAfee has managed to sneak out of Belize with his main squeeze, and is “safe” from those who are hunting him.
Oh my nerves. It’s enough to send me over the edge.
And aren’t we edging too close to the fiscal cliff? As a number of knowledgeable economists have been trying to tell us, our situation is not analogous to a ledge over which we tumble into the abyss. Rather, in the absence of any agreement between Congress and the White House, certain measures will automatically take effect. These include a tax increase (the expiration of tax cuts instituted not so long ago) and cuts in benefits. Paul Krugman, channeling Talking Point’s Brian Beutler, calls this “the austerity bomb.” I remain unconvinced that 1) the cliff or the bomb will actually come to pass; or 2) even if the measures go into effect, we will effectively blow ourselves to kingdom come.
Even television has gotten into the act, providing us with mid-season cliff-hangers as they prepare for a holiday hiatus. Will Emily stop the Grayson family from learning the truth? Will Nick and Monroe team up with their enemy Sean to fight the Family? Who is set to be zombie fodder in the coming year? We have only to wait until January—if we’re still here.**
Serious spiritualists have attempted to set the record straight concerning 12-21. On the website for the Adi Shakti organization, we are told:
…Mayan elders [did] not prophesy that everything will come to an end. Rather, this is a time of transition from one World Age into another. The message they give concerns our making a choice of how we enter the future ahead. Our moving through with either resistance or acceptance will determine whether the transition will happen with cataclysmic changes or gradual peace and tranquility. The same theme can be found reflected in the prophecies of many other Native American visionaries…
This explanation may lack the dramatic fireworks that emanate from end-of-the-world predictions but it has the advantage of being both more plausible and more hopeful. Skip the soap opera histrionics. On December 21st, let’s all take a deep breath and move forward.
*Russian for “to your health”
**Plot points for “Revenge,” (ABC); “The Grimm,” (NBC) and “The Walking Dead” (A&E)