The other day, Mom and I were having a conversation about something she'd seen on TV -- one of those cable shows about crazy, obsessed people and the strange compulsive habits they have.
I jokingly said that the world is filled with some real oddballs. "Just look at all those people who believe all that Mayan end of the world crap." I added with a laugh.
Mom got quiet for a moment and then she said, "Several of my friends believe that it's going to happen."
I'm fairly certain I did a double-take. "I'm sorry, they (censored) what?"
Mom went on to explain how a couple of folks at her senior club believe that come this December 21st, the world will cease to exist -- thanks to the Mayan calendar prophecy.
Now just in case you're not in the know, some years back a couple of archeologists exploring Mayan ruins found a bunch of carvings that they determined were the ancient civilization's calendar. Because of the way the Mayans counted their days (read: poorly), they essentially ran out of room on their calendar, so at one point, it abruptly stops. It just so happens that the end of the Mayan calendar allegedly coincides with December 21, 2012.
As a result of this discovery, a number of individuals started coming up with some interesting theories. One group of New Agey type folks theorized that this end to the calendar signifies a time of 'Great Change' for our planet and the Universe: stars will align, all the birds will chip 'Kumbaya my Lord' in unison and we'll all have a big planetary love fest.
Then there's the 'glass is half-empty' folks who contend that the end of the Mayan's calendar means we can skip sending out the Christmas cards, because we're all going to go poof.
Now if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. And the Loch Ness Monster summers at the Slate Lane Pool. Oh, and the President is actually from Kenya.
Hmm, we better skip that last one. We're liable to end up on a whole other topic with that.
So why are some people determined to propagate -- or believe -- an impending end-of-the-world scenario, despite all the concrete evidence to the contrary?
Greed. Power. They're jerks. They're impressionable. Take your pick.
Remember 'Reverend' Harold Camping? Last year he predicted -- twice -- the world would end, thanks to his super-secret decoding of mysterious passages in the Bible (I guess he missed that verse in Matthew that says only God knows the day and hour of the world's end). He convinced a bunch of people to give up everything and prepare for the last Hurrah. I bet they were weren't too many hurrahs the day after when they all realized they had to go back to work.
While Reverend Camping has thankfully faded into obscurity, there's plenty of others more than ready to step up and capitalize on fear of this Mayan nonsense. Do a search on Amazon and you're bound to find a slew of books, movies and other media out there, all on the subject. In fairness, a couple of them are there to debunk the Doom Sayers, but a majority of them focus on telling you how you should prepare for the final day. Isn't it a bit odd that these people aren't giving away their books and DVDs for free? What are they planning to do with all the money they make if they aren't going to be here to spend it?
Here's the non-shocker: the Mayans did NOT predict the end of the world. What those archaeologists found in that temple was the etchings from one part of the Mayans culture. There's been a number of other digs and studies at other Mayan ruins...guess what they found? Calendars going on past December 21st to who knows when.
Basically those people hawking their Apocalyptic wares are either a few waves short of a shipwreck or looking to capitalize on fear and/or ignorance -- and there's plenty of that to go around.
And what about the Mayans themselves? If they really had the ability to predict the end of the world, why couldn't foresee the Spanish coming across the big pond and destroying their civilization?
So no, there is no mysterious planet hurtling on a crash course with us. Nor will the Earth suddenly flip-flop, causing us all to fall off. Yes, the world will end...someday. At this rate it's more likely to happen due to our own foolhardy, trigger-happy, natural resource stripping actions than through the predictions of a long-dead civilization. But those scientist guys and gals have pretty good track records, and I'm going to take them on their word that the planet isn't going anywhere just yet.
They better be right though -- Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Star Trek 2 and The Man of Steel are all coming out in 2013!
Back to the conversation with Mom: we had a good laugh about the whole thing (which hopefully meant she wasn't falling for this silliness). She said she would talk to her friends, especially her best friend who absolutely believes our days are numbered. So I came up with a suggestion: If Mom's friend is so sure, she should sign papers leaving everything to me the day after the Apocalypse -- December 22, 2012. After all, if the world is going to end the day before, why should she care about some silly paper (notarized, of course) that bequeaths me with all her worldly possessions and access to her bank accounts, right?
Funny thing, her lawyer still hasn't called.