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Don't Fear the Mayans: It's Not the End of the World As We Know It

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With the U.S. economy in shambles, the Euro worth about as much as the Lego, a new strain of super-contagious swine flu, the Arab world in upheaval, Kim Jong Il dead, Ron Paul surging in the primaries, the Detroit Lions making the playoffs... with the world, in other words, teetering on the brink of what seems like the End of Days, I'd like to take this opportunity to hip you, Dear Reader, to an essential truth:

The world is not going to fucking end in 2012.

If you're down with New Age stuff -- or if you've been to Barnes & Noble lately and beheld the "2012" books in the New Age section -- you know that Dec. 21, 2012, is when the ancient Mayans predicted that the world would end. Which would be really terrifying except for one minor detail: it's not true.

"The claimed date arises from the fact that in that year (depending on how one calculates) the time unit called Baktun will complete its thirteenth turn," explains the linguistic scholar Zecharia Sitchin in The End of Days. "Since a Baktun lasts 144,000 days, it is some kind of milestone."

Debunking the apocalypse prophesy, Sitchin explains that the Mayan calendar is based on something called the Long Count, and is, like ours, linear, "and not the required cyclical one, so that its counted days could roll on to the fourteenth Baktun and the fifteenth Baktun and on and on."

In other words, the Mayan calendar ended in 2012 because the ancients didn't feel the need to keep going, just as computer programmers in the 1950s didn't feel the need to register dates past 1999.

2012 is the Mayan Y2k.

The astrological community holds with Sitchin. Ask any reputable astrologer about 2012 and what you'll hear is this: Yes, there are a few relatively rare aspects (Uranus square Pluto) and transits (Venus-Sun), but nothing dire enough to portend the apocalypse. (The dire portents begin in 2020, so please plan accordingly.)

For the last quarter of a century, "predictions of both doomsday and spontaneous enlightenment have flooded New Age literature and bled into mainstream thought," writes the astrologer Eric Francis on his (excellent) Planet Waves blog. "Though in all of that time, none of it has struck me as particularly meaningful. Said another way, I've hardly ever heard a 2012 narrative I could even vaguely relate to."

The reason, Francis suggests, is that the Mayans, unlike us, did not concern themselves with End Days prophesies. "Our sin-obsessed Christian culture... always seems to be waiting on doomsday," he explains. "However, Judgment Day is our shit -- not that of the ancient Mayans."

Contrary to popular belief, the Mayans were not a group of creepy Nostradamuses obsessed with an Apocalypse they didn't believe in, and would have marked the long-awaited end of the thirteenth Baktun with much feasting and revelry. Like we do, on New Year's Eve.

It may well be that if Ron Paul beats Romney and Obama -- or if the Lions beat the Packers and the Patriots -- the moon will turn red as blood, the Four Horsemen will spread disease, famine, war, and death to the four corners of the globe, Babylon will fall, the Number of the Beast will be revealed, and Jesus Christ will rise again to judge the living and the dead. But it will have nothing to do with the end of the thirteenth Baktun.

After all, if the Mayans were so good at predicting the future, they'd still be around.

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