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The Apocalypse? I’m Cool With That

by John Rodat on December 20, 2012


On Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, they say the world will come to an end.

“Oh, that Mayan nonsense?” you scoff.  For all the popular buzz there’s little real scholarship and less hard science behind this particular doomsday scenario, you say. The Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, a 5,125-year-long cycle anchored to the date of Creation as reckoned by the Mayans, expires then. So, you’re to regard that as a use-by date for all of human civilization? We curdle Friday? Gibberish.

I’m kinda looking forward to it.

Your skepticism is understandable. “Oh, really? If they’re so psychic, why didn’t they see this coming?” you quip. The Mayan people’s gifts of prophecy are, true, difficult for such practical people as ourselves to appreciate: If one can predict the future, one can prepare for the future, after all. The prescience of Mayan civilization is called into question by dint of the Mayan civilization sort of not being around, at all, so much, anymore.

Thing is, history’s on their side. It’s happened before.

By my count the world has ended four times. (I’ll get to that.)

The fact that the Mayans thrived at a time that antedates tinned food or semi-automatic weapons, and other de riguer cautionary steps, shouldn’t impugn their predictive capabilities. The Mayans didn’t prepare for End Days as we might expect, because, 1) in many ancient civilizations the concept of radical “world-ending” transformation was understood as a natural, even desirable process. Our frightful word “apocalypse,” it should be noted, literally translated from the Greek, means “un-covering.”  Revelation. And here’s another revelation: 2) The other reason the Mayans didn’t freak was because they weren’t thinking only in terms more poetic or metaphorical than is our habit, but also because they were used to it.

Even though it only ended once before their own civilization disappeared. OK, yes, the world only ended once before the Mayan civilization did, in linear time. But, don’t get caught up in the chronology. The ancient astronauts probably helped them with a lot of this stuff.

Among a select group of broad-thinking meta-philoso-scientific initiates (that’s mostly just me and two imaginary friends based on characters from Umberto Eco and Robert Chambers books), the history is well-known:

9600 BCE: The Great Flood destroys Atlantis. You cannot imagine what a bummer this was. Eden? You’ve heard of it? That was the neighborhood that bordered the canal. Great secondhand-scroll shops lined both sides. Oh, and the cafes! What they could do with figs. Elysian Fields? An open-air arena where spectators could dine on fresh shellfish while watching the known-world’s premier mixed-doubles olive-oil wrestlers. Asgard? That was the red-tallow district: Viking to Valkyrie, if you know what I mean. Dionysius kept a flat above the lute shop. Only one guy—a bit of geek, big Phoenician Navy fanboy—and his family survived, in a scale model he’d been working on. Things were, honestly, much less fun after.

c. 1590: Colonists bolt from Roanoke. Under the protection of the Chowanoke tribe, slightly fewer than 100 English-born colonists abandon the island off the coast of North Carolina and travel to the neighboring island of Croatoan, where they establish a communitarian and easily integrated society based on imaginative board games and pot-luck dinners. Unbelievable succotash. Fearing the intrusion of the returning Queen’s agent, Walter Raleigh, the colony departs for the stars under the leadership of the first European born in the New World, Virginia Dare, and aided by the ancient astronauts. Things were less fun after, and, even now, no one really knows how to cook gourds.

1919: The Volstead Act. Yeah, things were less fun after.

1978: Superman. This profitable 1978 Richard Donner film opened the door to the successful superhero franchise films that have led to the beatification of Robert Downey, Jr. Things . . . Really? Scarlett Johansson? Still?! . . . things were less fun after.

On Friday, the world as we know it may come to an end. This could be a very good thing. On Friday, think about the future you want for yourself and for your children: More figs, more tallow-district action, more board games, more inventively and flavorfully-prepared gourds? Or more Scarlett Johansson?

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